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UN Envoy Urges Lifting of Burma Sanctions

UN special adviser Vijay Nambiar (L) speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at her home in Rangoon, Burma, February 16, 2012.

The U.N.’s top envoy for Burma is urging the international community to lift sanctions imposed on that country’s previous military government, saying “dramatic changes” are happening there as the country transitions towards democracy.

Vijay Nambiar visited Burma, also known as Myanmar, for four days earlier this month. He told reporters Friday that the upcoming parliamentary elections on April 1 are an important test for the civilian government, which came to power last March.

“For these elections to be credible, they have to be free and fair, and to be seen by all to be so. This includes ensuring a level playing field for all parties to compete openly and addressing complaints swiftly and transparently - this point was mentioned by me to most of my interlocutors dealing with the elections," said Nambiar. "The by-election will be a critical test of the government’s commitment to broaden and enhance the credibility of the democratic process in the country.”

The Secretary-General’s Special Advisor said the United Nations had not been asked, nor had it offered any technical assistance for the upcoming elections. But he did note that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] had offered to send observers.

Nambiar cited progress in the country’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy in the run-up to April’s vote, including the registration of the opposition National League for Democracy [NLD] party; the registration as a candidate by its head, pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi; and the release of a significant number of political prisoners. He cautioned, however, that the onus remains on the government to consolidate gains and bring real reform.

He said the government must deliver on socio-economic needs, and he urged the international community to lift economic and financial sanctions imposed on the former military government for its human rights abuses and other repressive measures.

“The international community, on its part, must respond robustly to the needs of Myanmar’s people, including by lifting the current restrictions imposed against the country and on U.N. programs. Now is the time to build conditions for sustaining the reform for the betterment of the people of this country,” said Nambiar.

Nambiar welcomed the Burmese government’s engagement with the United Nations on several fronts, including organizing the country’s first census since 1983.