Suu Kyi calls for further easing of Burma sanctions


Aung San Suu Kyi is in Washington at the start of an historic visit to the US

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is visiting the US, has said she supports further easing of sanctions against Burma's government.

She made the comments after talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Clinton, for her part, warned Burma's military-backed government against "backsliding".

Western sanctions against Burma have already been loosened since the new government began enacting a series of political and social reforms.

In a speech at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, Aung San Suu Kyi said Burma had cleared the "first hurdle", adding that sanctions should be further eased as part of a partnership with the US.

"I do support the easing of sanctions, because I think that our people can start taking responsibility for their own destiny," she said.

"In the end, we have to build our own democracy."


Aung San Suu Kyi's stature is such that her views on what's happening inside Burma will to a large extent determine other countries' policies towards it.

Few governments would be willing to lift sanctions if she opposed this.

So her comments during this landmark visit to the United States, which maintains some of the toughest sanctions against Burma, are significant.

That should help smooth the way for President Thein Sein's first visit to the US next week. The Obama administration has lifted visa restrictions on the former general so he will not be confined to the UN building in New York.

He will not get the rock star reception given to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is not clear whether he will get a meeting with President Obama in the White House, as she will.

But he needs to leave the US with evidence that he is winning the battle to end Burma's isolation - perhaps a promise that remaining economic sanctions will be ended.

'Carry reforms forward'

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest in 2010 and is now a member of parliament, arrived in the US on Monday for her first visit to the country in two decades.

Ms Suu Kyi was a longtime supporter of foreign sanctions.

Over the past year she has gradually softened her opposition to lifting them, says the BBC's Jonathan Head. Now she says they should no longer be relied on to maintain the momentum of reforms, the clearest statement yet by her that sanctions should be phased out.

It is a different emphasis from her comments three months ago, during her first overseas visit here in Thailand, where she warned against what she called "reckless optimism" in the world over developments in Burma, says our correspondent.

In July, US President Barack Obama announced that US companies will now be allowed to "responsibly do business in Burma".

Burmese President Thein Sein has urged Western countries to scrap all sanctions against his country.

He is also due in the US next week following his official trip to China.

Since 2010, Thein Sein's government has overseen a transition from authoritarian rule to a more inclusive system.

The EU, Australia and other countries have already eased sanctions against the country.

Mrs Clinton warned against the possibility of "backsliding" if the military-backed leadership did not introduce further reforms.

Background: Burma unrest

What sparked the violence in June?

The rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman in Rakhine in May set off a chain of deadly religious clashes

Why was a state of emergency declared?

To allow the military to take over administrative control of the region

Who are the Rohingyas?

The UN describes them as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority from western Burma. The Burmese government says they are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent. Bangladesh already hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Burma and says it cannot take any more

The secretary of state said Burma's government and opposition "need to continue the work together to unite the country, heal the wounds of the past and carry the reforms forward".

She also voiced concern about Burma's recent sectarian clashes and the country's alleged links to North Korea.

Ethnic conflict

It was the second meeting between the the Nobel laureate and Mrs Clinton, who visited Burma in December.

While in the US, Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to receive numerous awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour in the US, on Wednesday.

She will also meet Burmese groups in different parts of the US.

But she is likely to face questions over the deadly ethnic conflict in western Rakhine state earlier this year.

The violence, between Burma's majority Buddhists and minority Muslims, was sparked by the rape and murder of a young Buddhist woman. Dozens of people died and thousands were displaced.

Rights groups have expressed concern over the fate of the Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim group at the centre of the unrest who Burma says are not Burmese citizens. They have often been denied asylum in neighbouring countries.

Aung San Suu Kyi has remained relatively quiet on the issue, although has called in parliament for laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.


More on This Story

Burma's Transition


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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi: "In the end, we have to build our own democracy." Little statement - biggest, most powerful. No major democracy can stamp its brand on any new democracy. Cultures are different; history is different. When developed democracies attempt to "play" with developing democracies, especially with sanctions, there is always a forboding of trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It is a well known fact that there is and historically has been ethnic strife in Burma. However, the tendency, rather recent, by representatives of a certain ethnic group, to point the finger of blame on Aung San Suu Kyi, is nothing short of an attempt to malign her. She has emerged from 15 years of house arrest under a tough military regime. Applause her for her sacrifice, and be patient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    there is still a long long way to go in Burma, but things are slowly turning in the right direection. With so many different ethnic groups in Burma it needs someone who can unite them all, as Daw Suu did previously.
    My worry from the US is that they are only interested in minimising the influence of China in the region and not actually overly interested in the people themselves.


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