Indonesia says US sanctions hurting Burmese citizens

June 9, 2009 (DVB), The Indonesian foreign minister said during a speech in the United States yesterday that US sanctions on Burma are causing hardship to its people, while expressing concern at the lack of democratic progress in Burma.

Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organization, Hassan Wirajuda called for the release of Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and for greater diplomatic engagement with the regime.

In February US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that US policy toward Burma needed to be reviewed in light of the failure of sanctions, although the trial of Suu Kyi has dashed any signs that sanctions will be eased.

Hassan's comments were echoed by the labour minister for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, an exiled Burmese political party.

"The Burmese people are in trouble not because of the international sanctions but only by the [government's] mismanagement of the nation," said Myint Tun.

"The country was in trouble before the US imposed the sanctions."

In April the European Union added brief weight to the anti-sanctions argument by stating it could ease its blockade when it came up for renewal if democratic progress is seen in the country, although this failed to materialise.

Some observers have claimed however that sanctions have only further isolated the regime, whose economy is being propped up by trade with China and India.

"Isolation means that the military can do whatever it wants to the people, and no country has any moral or whatever authority over the regime," said political analyst Aung Naing Oo.

"Sanctions have contributed to the suffering in the country," he continued, adding that regardless of sanctions, foreign countries need to engage the junta more.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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