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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More