Parliament Rejects USDP Lawmaker’s Proposal to Challenge US Sanctions

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 15 August 2016

RANGOON — In a vote in the Lower House of Parliament on Monday, MPs opted out of discussing a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) member’s proposal related to a review of US sanctions.

Mandalay Division’s Thazi Township lawmaker Than Soe of the USDP had proposed that the government attempt to pressure the US to lift sanctions; the request comes three months after the United States Department of the Treasury again expanded its annual sanction term for Burma in May.

“There is no change to the US sanctions on Myanmar even though the country is now changing. That’s why I urged the government to address this issue,” he said in Parliament.

American sanctions on Burma were initiated in 1997. In 2012, the US restored diplomatic ties with Burma; one year after ex-President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government came to power.

Than Soe repeatedly emphasized that the US sanctions’ aim was to place pressure on the country to adopt a more democratic political system; it was right to do so when Burma was under military rule, he argued, but he said the country is currently changing and if sanctions remain, they could harm Burma’s development.

“US sanctions could delay the country’s development. That’s why the government should try to get sanctions lifted,” he said.

After Than Soe put forward his proposal, Lower House Speaker Win Myint called on lawmakers to vote whether a further discussion should be held on the issue. The proposal was rejected after 219 lawmakers voted it down, and a minority of 151 lawmakers supported it.

Mi Kon Chan, a National League for Democracy (NLD) Lower House lawmaker representing Paung Township in Mon State, said that parliamentarians will only agree to discuss issues which support the people’s and the country’s interests.
“We won’t agree to a proposal if it only focuses on a minority of people. This means the US sanctions only impact a few people here,” she said.

Many businesspeople in Burma—particularly those with connections to the ex-miltiary elite—remain on the US treasury department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list of people with whom American citizens are barred from doing business.

In February, at a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in California, Burma’s former vice president Nyan Tun requested that US sanctions on Burma be lifted, arguing that, due to sanctions, Burma had received comparatively less developmental assistance from the US than other Asean countries.