Obama says world will try for Burma reform

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, May 19, 2012 19:13 EDT
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President Barack Obama  (AFP)
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President Barack Obama, fresh from easing US sanctions on Myanmar, said at the G8 summit Saturday that world powers would do all they could to promote the country’s political reforms.

Obama lifted some investment restrictions on the nominally civilian-ruled nation this week, hoping to reward President Thein Sein for taking steps toward political change, and to encourage the government to go further.

He said at the G8 summit at his Camp David retreat that fellow leaders “are hopeful” about developments in impoverished Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

“Our hope is that this process will continue and we’re going to do everything we can to encourage that process.”

Obama on Thursday eased investment sanctions on Myanmar and named the first US ambassador to the country in 22 years, seeking to reward an easing of “iron fist” rule.

But seeking maximum leverage on Myanmar’s government and to preserve his options in case of “backsliding,” he maintained wider US sanctions on Myanmar and figures linked to the former junta.

The US government will now license certain types of investment in financial services and allow American businesses to work in Myanmar, though will ensure that those who abuse human rights and seek to slow progress do not benefit.

It will maintain restrictions on investment with the military, which has deep commercial interests in the country’s economy.

Thein Sein surprised many US observers by initiating political reforms designed to break Myanmar’s isolation, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy secured 43 of the 44 seats it contested in parliamentary by-elections in April.

But it remains a minority, with many seats in both chambers reserved for unelected military officials.

As well as promoting further political reforms, Washington also wants Myanmar to release more political prisoners.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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