US to ease sanctions against Burma


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces the easing of sanctions

The United States has announced it will further ease sanctions against Burma.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said some travel and financial restrictions would be relaxed, with Burmese leaders allowed to visit the US.

European Union leaders had said earlier on Wednesday that they would consider taking similar steps.

The news follows by-elections in Burma on Sunday in which pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party secured a landslide win.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) took 43 out of 45 seats up for grabs in the polls, which were generally deemed to be free and fair.

Mrs Clinton, who paid a visit to Burma last year, praised President Thein Sein's "leadership and courage".

"We fully recognise and embrace the progress that has taken place and we will continue our policy of engagement," she said.

Under the moves, the US will name an ambassador to Burma and establish an office for its Agency for International Development in the country.

The US would also begin "targeted easing" of the ban on US financial services and investment in Burma, she said without giving further details.


The recent by-elections are being hailed as an important step in Burma's transition from decades of authoritarian military rule towards a more open, democratic and representative system. But it is a transition fraught with difficulties.

Aung San Suu Kyi will feel that the risk she took in deciding to participate in the elections has been vindicated by the scale of her party's success.

But the real test will be to see how effective she is able to be as an agent for change within parliament.

Administration officials said agriculture, tourism, telecommunications and banking would be among the economic sectors to be considered for the relaxation of sanctions.

Mrs Clinton said that sanctions would remain in place "on individuals and institutions that remain on the wrong side of these historic reform efforts".

The US eased some sanctions on Burma in February.

Political prisoners

The US move came hours after Asian leaders meeting for a regional summit issued a formal call for sanctions against Burma to be lifted immediately to help the country's political and economic development.

Speaking in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said EU members would probably be willing to lift some of their sanctions on Burma.

"That does not mean an instant and complete opening up of trade with Burma," he added.

Mr Hague said he would keep up pressure on Burma to free political prisoners.

The Chinese foreign ministry welcomed the Western moves to relax sanctions on Burma, and called for all restrictions to be lifted.

Burma sanctions

In place:

  • US: Arms embargo, bans on investment and financial services, as well as a ban on most Burmese imports
  • EU: Ban on arms exports to, and investment in, Burma. Visa restrictions and asset freezes targeting key officials, ban on exports of gems, timber and metals
  • Canada: Asset freezes and ban on all imports and exports as well as financial services
  • Australia: Visa restrictions and ban on arms exports

Steps to ease sanctions:

  • US: To start 'targeted' liftingof investment and financial services bans. Will relax visa ban to help officials travel to US. Will maintain sanctions on people and institutions that oppose reform. Waived ban on technical assistance in February
  • EU: In January suspended visa ban on certain ministers and officials. May relax sanctions further in April

China has long been Burma's closest partner and biggest investor.

But human rights campaigners warned the West against being too quick to lift sanctions.

"To lift the sanctions immediately and totally would be premature," a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sunai Phasuk, told the BBC's World Today programme.

"We need to maintain leverage, we need to maintain pressure and use these to negotiate for further changes to guarantee that there will be no reversal of positive development in Burma."

Although the NLD won a landslide victory in Sunday's polls, the result barely makes a dent in the ruling military's dominance of parliament.

The army and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) still hold about 80% of seats in parliament after elections in November 2010 that were boycotted by the NLD because of election laws they said were unfair.

Correspondents say a key test of the government's commitment to reform lies ahead, as the NLD enters parliament.

The NLD won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest ordered by the ruling military junta.

But a series of reforms has been enacted in Burma since November 2010 after the polls which saw military rule ended and a military-backed civilian government elected to office.


More on This Story

Burma's Transition


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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @Frankthetank 32 "It's a shame that this board has been taken over by the anti-west brigade"

    I dont think its about being "anti-west" at all. The West has fine traditions: philosophy, science, art, democracy etc. However, where powerful nations (inc Russia & China etc!) intervene overtly or covertly in the governence of weaker countries its right to question it while we still have that freedom

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    So I cannot be a realist about the USA and be against the oppressive regimes of Russia and China too? Funny, for me it all goes hand-in-hand.
    I'm not a mindless cheerleader for nationalist ideals, and I'm proud not to be. I understand how complex these issues are, I'm just pointing out how hypocritical OUR governments are.

    The right-wing never understand intelligent argument ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Re #32

    Who has been staunchly supporting right-wing Burmese military junta?

    Why? Communist China, of course. :-);siu-container

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    If this is what the people want all well and good, in that event you can count me in the corner to support them. If they gain true democracy they will be one step ahead of us in the UK and alongside Switzerland the only country that trusts its people to have binding referenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    31, 28.

    Well said. It's a shame that this board has been taken over by the anti-west brigade. I remember meeting a man in the river Kwai area. He was a burmese refugee, hadn't seen his family in years, struggled with Thai. Everything was taken from him by the Junta, his life ruined. And then you get people on this board suggesting that our pressure the Junta is all about western greed. Sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Re supporting dicators in oil-rich countries.

    Please, check who staunchly supports and is still arming homicidal regime of Bashar Assad in oil-rich Syria.

    And equally homicidal regime of oil-rich Sudan.

    [a hint: no, it's not USA or UK]

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Its nice to be able to comment on these remote geopolitical changes. Glad to hear that the Burmese are beginning to join the modern world. But ask me for an opinion on it? Well cant say I really have one, I expect there is still a long road for them to go down before things really get straightened out. How about bringing back DLT to do World Record Requests as a reward?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I wonder if the real pressure on the "Generals" came from their spoilt & indulged children who had no opportunity to display their wealth & privilege to the world at large. It's all very well being rich & powerful in an isolated jungle citadel but who's going to "know" just how rich you are? Good old spoilt child vanity is what has probably shifted the paradigm in Myanmar. That's rich kid power!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The people of Burma were subjected to economic hardship because of sanctions imposed on the country by the US Government and its minions.

    They were promised a better life if they voted for 'The National League of Democracy'; sanctions would be eased.

    What choice did they have?

    'Voting' for military junta?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The West are not interest in Democracy but only their own interests. People become to understand how the Western governments operate. We saw it with in Libya, now with Syria and Iran.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    If Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD had over half the seats, then for sure democracy would seem to be on the cards. However the pressure to purge the majority militay backed junta out should be mainained or even increased. Hopefully its a step in the right direction, but the world should not take their eyes off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    8 Minutes ago

    LOL of course that is the situation! :s

    The west is only interested in resources? Hmm with Kosovo it was all about looting the Serbs wasn't it? Or the South Africa boycott - the 'evil west' must have had ulterior motives?

    Can we not just congratualate something that is guaranteed to be good for the Burmese? It's like some people have never been to the region.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Getting the right balance between carrot and stick is always difficult - as shown by the mixed reactions of these comments. The message the the world should give is that Burma hasn't yet gone far enough towards democracy, but that what has happened is a good first step - and I think the US response clearly gives both of those messages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Suu Kyi asked the PM of Canada to keep the sanctions on Myanmar, but the US wants to end the Sanctions on Burma.

    What's that about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Sanctions are not used by the US or UK as a moral objection, they are used as a method of bullying and attack. How can our nations really pretend to be moral when we're selling arms to one dictator (who we have an oil deal with) while imposing sanctions on another (who refuses to bend to US will). Our governments are barely any better that the most corrupt regime, and we somehow cling to morality?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    No country is spared from western looting. Neofeudalism is here. No country is safe from greedy capitalists. There is no government that cannot be overthrown. It's shamefull what is happening. Poor countries are slaves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Who a country does business with is their choice. However, sanctions have a negative affect with innocent citizens being the ones who suffer.
    As regards the USA, they do business with whoever best suits their interests. It's okay to ease sanctions against Burma but why still enforce sanctions against Cuba? They have been no danger to USA since nuclear missiles were withdrawn from Cuba (& Turkey)

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    What has US & Hilary Clinton so excited?
    Myanmar will fill JUST 45 VACANT SEATS in country's 664-seat Parliament. It was Suu Kyi's presence that made event extraordinary. Election Commission confirmed Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy took 43 seats. So the REMARKABLE DEMOCRATIC CHANGE = less than 1%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I think this is a bit premature. Burma needs to prove that things are permanently changing for the better and that there will be no backsliding to the way things were. I wouldn't trust them just yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Cambodian PM Hun Sen: it was Asean appeal for sanctions to be lifted, those punishing military-ruled Myanmar, allegedly for human rights violations. Thein Sein reported the byelections saw high turnout, were held peacefully. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said ASEAN foreign ministers would pass appeal for the sanctions' lifting when they meet their EU counterparts.


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