Burma Hails EU Lifting of Sanctions

By The Associated Press 24 April 2013

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei—Burma on Tuesday hailed a European Union decision lifting political and economic sanctions against the former pariah state, pledging to continue its reforms and march toward democracy.

Senior Burma diplomat Aung Lynn told reporters on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, that the international community can expect more reforms, especially in the socio-economic sectors.

“This is a very good beginning,” he told reporters, adding that Burma recognizes the still enormous work ahead for one of Southeast Asia’s most least-developed states.

Burma, he said, would continue to work with the European Union. The 27-nation bloc lifted all sanctions except for the sale of arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression.

The economic sanctions were suspended last April for one year after Burma’s military rulers handed over power to a civilian government that launched democratic reforms. The measures had targeted more than 800 companies and nearly 500 people, and included the suspension of some development aid.

EU officials say the sanctions’ permanent abolition will encourage firms and development organizations from the bloc—the world’s largest economy—to strengthen ties with Burma.

“We know that much remains to be done, on human rights, on democracy, fighting poverty and achieving lasting peace. We don’t underestimate the challenges,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

The United States, which has also suspended economic sanctions in the past year, showed no immediate sign of following suit and lifting restrictions. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Tuesday that the United States has a “calibrated” policy that leaves sanctions authorities in place to encourage further progress on reforms in Burma.
Aung Lynn said Burma was looking forward to assuming the chairmanship of Asean for the first time next year, and would show to the world how serious his country was about its reforms.

Burma declined the chairmanship in 2006 amid threats by Western governments to boycott ASEAN events due to Burma’s then atrocious human rights record.

Aung Lynn’s brief interview with journalists was considered rare.

Before Burma embarked on democratic reforms, its leaders and diplomats struggled to evade reporters in Asean summits, where the former military junta’s repressive record was often an object of scorn and attracted huge media attention.