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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid