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Suu Kyi calls for easing US sanctions against Myanmar
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi wants the US to ease remaining sanctions on her country. “I do support the easing of sanctions because I think that our people should start taking responsibility for their own destiny,” Suu Kyi said at the US Institute of Peace on Tuesday.

“I do not think that we should depend on US sanctions to keep up the momentum of our movement toward democracy. We have got to work at it ourselves,” she added.

Human rights groups and Burmese activists oppose lifting all sanctions since they believe that the US would lose leverage to keep Burma’s military-backed government on the path of reform. The Obama administration is considering easing a ban on imports from Burma. It has mostly waived an investment ban and financial restrictions, paving the way for US businesses to invest in Burma.

Suu Kyi met Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday morning at the start of her first visit to the US in four decades. In her remarks to the Washington think tank, Clinton did not mention the sanctions.

The US-Burma relations have thawed over the past year as the government in Naypyidaw has taken steps toward reform. The government has released hundreds of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, legalised opposition political parties, eased restrictions on the press and enacted laws to strengthen workers’ rights.

But both Suu Kyi and Clinton said more needs to be done. “We have crossed the first hurdle but there are many more hurdles to cross,” Suu Kyi said.

Clinton urged the opposition and the government to work together to “guard against backsliding” on reforms. “There are forces that would take the country in the wrong direction if given the chance,” she added.

More than 200 prisoners of conscience remain behind bars and a lingering war between Burma’s army and Karen rebels in the northernmost Kachin state has posed a challenge for the government.

Suu Kyi has been criticised for not taking a firm position on the violence against Rohingyas, stateless Muslims in the western Rakhine state who have been raped, arrested and killed by security forces following deadly clashes with majority Buddhists in June. She defended her position, saying she said she didn’t want to make political capital out of the situation by criticising the government.

Suu Kyi’s visit to the US coincides with that of Myanmar’s President Thein Sein who will travel to New York next week to address the UN General Assembly.

US removes penalties against Myanmar's President

Washington: The US Treasury has removed Myanmar's President, Thein Sein, from a list of individuals who are barred from doing business or owning property in America. The Obama administration wants to balance its praise for Suu Kyi with credit for Thein Sein, who's been key to Myanmar's democratic reforms. The Speaker of Myanmar's lower house of Parliament, Thura Shwe Mann, also was removed from the list. He was the third-ranking member in Myanmar's former ruling junta. — AP





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