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 VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid