News / Asia

    US Senator Urges End of Key Sanctions Against Burma

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013.
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013.
    VOA News
    A top U.S. lawmaker who has long been a critic of Burma's former military government says he is ready to end key sanctions against the reforming Southeast Asian nation, despite lingering human rights concerns.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell made his comments Tuesday after meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein, who this week became that country's first head-of-state in nearly 50 years to visit the White House.

    McConnell said he would not support congressional renewal of a ban on imports from Burma. He said to do so would be a "slap in the face" to reformists and would embolden those who want to slow or reverse the changes.

    Burma's nominally civilian government took power in 2011, and has since enacted a series of rapid economic and political reforms. In response, Washington has suspended most of its economic sanctions against Burma, including the import ban.

    If the annual legislation were allowed to expire, as McConnell has suggested, the White House could not re-instate the ban if Burma fails to continue making democratic progress.

    U.S. President Barack Obama sits with Burma's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013.U.S. President Barack Obama sits with Burma's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013.
    x
    U.S. President Barack Obama sits with Burma's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013.
    U.S. President Barack Obama sits with Burma's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, May 20, 2013.
    Critics say such a move would waste valuable diplomatic leverage. They also say Burma's military dominated government has failed to address several important and long-standing human rights abuses.

    Four Democratic lawmakers, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, met Tuesday with President Thein Sein, presenting him a list of nearly 250 political prisoners thought to still be jailed in Burma. The letter also called for an end to attacks on Burma's minority Muslims, who have been the victims of widespread discrimination and a worsening campaign of violence led by nationalistic Buddhist monks.

    McConnell on Tuesday acknowledged that more reforms need to be made. But he argued that Congress could retain leverage with other remaining sanctions, such as a ban on gems - an important source of revenue for the Burmese military. He also said failing to lift the sanctions means U.S. businesses would lose out on opportunities to competitors in other countries that already have lifted trade restrictions on Burma.

    McConnell has been one of Washington's staunchest supporters of the sanctions and of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. His new position represents a major success for President Thein Sein, who has long called for an end to the import ban. Before leaving Washington, the Burmese leader also secured a key trade deal with the Obama administration.

    A member of Thein Sein's delegation, Deputy Burmese Commerce Minister Pwint San, signed the agreement with acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on Tuesday.

    Marantis' office said the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement calls for the United States and Burma to identify business "initiatives" that support ongoing Burmese reforms and development projects that benefit the Burmese people.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora