Suu Kyi questions Burma sanctions impact

Aug 17, 2009 (DVB), Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly said that she is "not opposed" to the lifting of some sanctions on the country's ruling generals during recent talks with US senator Jim Webb.

The two met briefly last week during Webb's high-profile visit to Burma, during which he secured the release of US citizen John Yettaw, who is now in Bangkok.

As well as Suu Kyi, Webb met with the junta leader, Than Shwe, the first time the reclusive general has hosted a senior US politician.

Suu Kyi has long back sanctions on the regime, which have been fiercely promoted by the United States and European Union. Last week the EU stepped up its embargo following Suu Kyi's imprisonment.

"With respect to Aung San Suu Kyi, I don’t want to take the risk of misrepresenting her views but I would say to you it was my clear impression from her that she is not opposed to lifting some sanctions," Webb told AFP reporters.

"I can say it was my impression from listening to her in the conversation that there were some areas that she would be willing to look at."

Although the US recently renewed its sanctions package on Burma, some senior US politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have said a review is needed in light of their inefficacy.

Critics of sanctions have said that countries allied with the regime, most notably China, continue to invest heavily in Burma and thus lessen the impact of an economic boycott.

Next month China and Burma will begin work on a pipeline connecting Burma's vast offshore gas reserves to its northern neighbour, while Thailand relies on Burma for much of its energy needs.

Suu Kyi also indicated last week that tourism in Burma should be encouraged, a reversal on her line that visitors "should wait for the right time" before coming to the country.

With much of tourists' movement dictated by the government, and many resorts allegedly built using forced labour, supporters of the tourism boycott have argued that money earned from tourists goes directly into the pockets of the regime.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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