Parties slam sanctions, McCain disagrees

Opposition parties in Burma have told visiting US senator John McCain that western sanctions on the country are retarding social and economic development and should be terminated.

But the 77-year-old one-time presidential hopeful said today until the Burmese government meets its international obligations, including the release of all political prisoners, sanctions should remain.

Speaking to an audience in Rangoon prior to his departure today, he said that “without concrete actions by this government that signal a deeper commitment to democratic change, there should be no easing or lifting of sanctions”.

On Thursday he met with several parties, including the opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) and Democratic Party Myanmar, as well as the government-aligned National Unity Party and a number of ethnic politicians.

The NDF, which split from the National League for Democracy in order to compete in the polls, has not shied away from its desire to see sanctions lifted.

“Economic sanctions obstruct civilians from their economic and political rights in a way can be regarded as a human rights violation,” said NDF leader Khin Maung Swe. “One should consider economic sanctions as obstructive as the human rights violations [committed] by our own government.

“So I told [McCain] that sanctions should be removed if the US wants to help Burma and to bring economic opportunities to the country.”

He added that during their conversation, he pointed out that the US is currently supporting a number of countries that are under dictatorial rule.

McCain, who held talks with regime figures in the capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday, said it was “clear” that the new government wanted a better relationship with the United States, which first implemented sanctions in the mid-1990s.

The EU has also suggested that the bloc’s confidence in sanctions has waned after decades of intransigence by the regime, which held controversial elections last year.

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