McCain Calls for Lifting of Sanctions

US Senator John McCain, left, meets Aung San Suu Kyi at her Rangoon home on Jan.22. (Photo: Irrawaddy)

WASHINGTON D.C.—A leading Republican Senator has called for steps to be taken to lift crippling US economic sanctions on Burma in the wake of Sunday’s by-elections.

Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential hopeful, said that the weekend ballot proves Naypyidaw’ s democratic aspirations and called for restrictive measures to be repealed in order to hasten reform.

“The US should now work with its international partners to begin the process of easing sanctions on Burma. This will be a gradual and incremental process, and the US Congress will have a critical role to play,” said McCain.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and with the administration on a coordinated strategy to begin easing sanctions in a way that improves the lives of the Burmese people and strengthens the democratic and economic reforms that the Burmese government and Parliament are undertaking,” he said, adding that he hoped that a delegation of Burmese parliamentarians can visit Washington in the near future.

McCain also praised the efforts of the Burmese government. “I commend the government in Naypyidaw for the conduct of the election and for allowing international groups, including US organizations, to observe the voting, which largely appears to have been free and fair,” he said, while also congratulating pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi for her victory in the election.

“This is a historic moment for Burma, as ‘The Lady’ finally takes her rightful place as an elected leader of her fellow citizens,” McCain said, adding that the recent election should be an important milestone in Burma’s relationship with the international community, including the US.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said on Tuesday it has adopted “cautious optimism” regarding the landslide win of Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD).

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the US expected the Burmese government would honor the results of Sunday’s by-elections in contrast to the 1990 general elections victory for the NLD which the former military junta quashed.

“Our expectation is that the government will honor the results as they are certified,” Nuland said. “Then she has 42 other members of her party who appear to have won their seats. So our expectation is that these results will be honored and that the Parliament will now reflect the results of these elections.”

It is now going to be critical for the Burmese authorities to continue to work on reform of the electoral system so that it fully meets international standards, including transparency, and it expeditiously looks into any irregularities, she said.

“But we are obviously hoping for a continuing evolution of the Burmese political system heading towards the next scheduled elections, which I think are 2015,” Nuland told reporters.

Responding to questions, Nuland confirmed that the US is looking at ways and means to match Burmese democracic reforms. Many observers believe this will come in terms of lifting economic sanctions.

“We are prepared to match positive steps of reform in Burma with steps of our own. We are now looking at what might come next on the US side. I don’t have anything to announce, but I would look for more movement from us on this in the coming weeks,” she said.

Nuland said the US is in constant communication with the European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations members in this regard, but declined to go into further details.

7 Responses to McCain Calls for Lifting of Sanctions

  1. Whoa, not so fast. The Burmese generals are very good at manipulaing their own people as well as the foeigners. Sen. McCain should not be too confident that they will change their stripes instantly. Let’s wait and see. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is quite accurate in stating that this is only a very small first step towards the road to democracy.
    We waited 50 years for this moment so why can’t we wait a few more months to ascertain that things have really changed.

  2. As the election was free, fair and transparent the west should open new window for Burma.

  3. Dear,
    Senator John McCain,it is too early for US and its international partners to lift sanctions on Burma right now. There has been still ongoing conflict, fighting, human right abuse behind the sense that outsiders don’t see. Once everything is clear and Burma government meets all the principal requirement from internationals and its people, then it is time for the US and its international partners to life the sanctions.

  4. “Crippling”?

    Who did it cripple?

    Or who crippled the Burmese economy more – stupid and cruel Burmese junta policies and actions since 1962! or sanctions, which Khin Nyunt in his hey day said they did not need to be worried about, as they “had China” (c. 2000).

    For your information, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Mitch McConnell (the “Father of Sanctions”) and Bloomberg News all said it is too soon to lift sanctions.

    Daw Suu and NLD won “only” 43 or their 44 assigned seats, when total upper and lower house in pretend parliament is 664.

    Is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to spend her life campaigning (again in 2015?). She came close to a physical breakdown this time.

    Irrawaddy should not slice and dice it’s coverage too finely, you are losing wood for the trees or woodchips.

    Kyi May Kaung

  5. Let us wait and see how coming parliament will convene inclusive of ASSK and NLD elected members. To lift the sanction is depend on US President Obama who can do that when the time comes.

  6. China is getting impatient and is pushing ahead with their two mega-projects: Myitsone Dam and the gas/oil pipeline ending at Kyaukphru deep-sea-port. This is not just a commercial enterprise. It impinges on Burma’s sovereignty. Burma needs the West as a counterweight to counter Chinese invasive exploitation and that is the underlying reason for all this “reform and opening-up” strategy that Thein Sein is spearheading (although, I am sure there are many Chinese business cronies in Burma who are not happy with that).
    Well, I was always rather skeptical about these Western sanctions, because they are rather inconsistent (what about that Canadian mining company Ivanhoe?). It did punish the top generals their cronies and their children (who want to go to the West like TayZa’s son who won a lawsuit recently) but I always felt it was more of a “schadenfreude revenge” thing and wasn’t very effective. China vetoed everything at the UN and there were too many “trade leaks” (gas/oil/timber/jade etc.) to China and other neighbouring countries. Suu Kyi never publicly asked China or Singapore to impose sanctions on the junta!
    So, I agree with McCain.

  7. Business interests will more than ever dominate in the new world order that Burma is about to join. ASSK just made it possible for the West to get their market share which they have badly missed out on so far. It dovetailed into the plans of our ‘newly democratic’ regime’s new ‘Look West’ policy for a new lease of life ensuring legitimacy and exponential growth in personal wealth. More snouts in the trough, and trickle down for the people. Be grateful just to be exploited.

    The comprador bourgeoisie class is set to grow, money and power working closer than ever together, and trickle down also to public services such as health, education and transport. The British built roads and rail, rice and saw mills, and the Irrawaddy Flotilla for pacifying the country after annexation, extracting wealth and ease of administration. Expect the same in a modern setting and catchy buzz words.

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