News / Asia

    Rights Groups Cautious About Easing Burma Sanctions

    A truck loaded with teak logs runs on a road in Rangoon, Burma. U.S. Secretary of State announced the US will ease its import ban on Burma, Sept. 27, 2012.
    A truck loaded with teak logs runs on a road in Rangoon, Burma. U.S. Secretary of State announced the US will ease its import ban on Burma, Sept. 27, 2012.
    Ron Corben
    Rights groups have cautiously welcomed U.S. moves to lift trade sanctions against Burma. The measures recognize the country’s reforms, but analysts say there are still serious concerns about legislative reforms and land rights.

    The lifting of the trade sanctions, announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, follows earlier steps to ease financial restrictions and came during an official visit to the United States by President Thein Sein.

    Reaction

    Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also visiting the united States, expressed support for an easing of the ban, saying Burma no longer remains reliant on external pressure to ensure moves towards democracy.  U.S. officials have said they want to experience tangible benefits of the reform process currently underway.

    Sean Turnell, associate economics professor at Australia’s Macquarie University, says it will still take time before the lifting of sanctions comes into effect. “That is the last remaining big economic sanction on Burma.  [However,] You can’t have it immediately because that particular import ban is a Congressional act rather than an executive order, so the president can wave it;  but, to have that sanction removed completely it would have to be a vote of the Congress," he explained. "So that won’t happen until after the election.”

    Investments

    Washington had earlier cleared the way for U.S. companies and “private agencies” to provide financial services and invest in Burma - also known as Myanmar.  Major U.S. corporations, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co., have indicated they are planning to invest in Burma.

    The country has been flooded by a wave of foreign investors as international sanctions have been eased.  China is the largest investor with $13 billion in Burma, followed by Thailand with $9 billion. Japan is also believed to be planning to strengthen investments.

    Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, says a key concern for the moment is the issue of land seizures. “One of the things that we’re seeing coming up all over Burma is land problems, seizures of land - unauthorized taking of land by well-connected wealthy people," he said. "Burma is starting to see similar areas that previously were not considered very important all of a sudden are starting to look valuable and people with connections are displacing farmers and others.”

    Reforms

    The Alternative ASEAN Network say further legislative reforms should be in place to support property rights of minority groups and individuals and protection of workers’ labor rights.

    Other concerns lie in corruption and poor regulations. In 2011 Burma was ranked as the 180th best nations for corruption by watchdog Transparency International’s index.

    Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist, Cyn-Young Park, says the economy needs further reform to press forward, including regulatory framework and a strengthening of human capital and education. “A weak legal and regulatory framework is always a barrier to foreign investment. I mean investors always look at whether or not the country is actually with a clear transparent sort of legal laws and regulation and do they actually have clear ownership, property rights in terms of corporate governance,” Park stated.

    Park says Burma’s government is “working very hard” to address these issues to attract direct foreign investment. The ADB says, if Burma can sustain reforms - including economic changes - growth could reach eight percent and lead to a tripling in per capita income by 2030.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.