La bonne nouvelle
EU to suspend sanctions on Burma

The European Union has agreed to suspend non-military sanctions on Burma for one year, following democratic reforms in the Asian nation. Ruled for over half a century by a military junta who brutally suppressed opposition, it was a widely-condemned pariah in the international community.

But over the last two years, things have, slowly, begun to change. In 2010, pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, which she had been under on and off for 21 years. In March 2011, a nominally civilian government was introduced under President Thein Sein, and in parliamentary elections in April 2012, the National League for Democracy, Ms Suu Kyi’s party, won 43 of the 45 seats it contested, including hers.

In April 2012, key EU figures visited Burma ; David Cameron became the first British Prime Minister to visit the country since it declared independence in 1948, and Catherine Ashton visited between 28th-30th April. Both met with both Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi. Ashton stated before her visit "The European Union welcomes the remarkable changes in Burma/Myanmar and has decided to open a new chapter in our relations. We have suspended the sanctions with the exception of the arms embargo. Of course reforms need to continue - we need to see further progress, in particular the unconditional release of all political prisoners and efforts to end ethnic conflicts. We are ready to assist with these efforts as well as with economic and social development. We will continue to support the democratic transition, including through electoral assistance, and encourage trade and investment in the country.”  [1]

As Ashton says, reforms need to continue : the military junta still automatically has 25% of the seats in parliament. But the signs are certainly encouraging, and the West has recognised that. It can only be hoped that the progress continues, and that we will see a fully-democratic Burma being accepted and welcomed into the international community.

Photo : © European Union, 2012


[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/pressRelease...


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