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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs