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

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    First Human Head Transplant Planned for 2017

    Italian neurosurgeon, assisted by team of 100 medical staff, to perform 36-hour surgery on Russian man with debilitating muscle-wasting disease

    Biden Urges Global Focus on Cancer as a 'Constant Emergency'

    At Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, Vice president notes that cancer kills more than 3,000 people each day in US alone

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora