US signals possible shift in its policy on Myanmar | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 19, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 19, 2009

US signals possible shift in its policy on Myanmar

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western governments had failed to pressure the repressive Myanmar government, signaling a potentially major shift in US policy.
Hillary, at a news conference here, did not deny that lifting sanctions was one of the ideas under consideration by the Obama administration as part of a major review. "We are looking at possible ideas that can be presented," she told reporters and said that she had discussed the issue with Indonesia officials here.
"Clearly the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn't influenced the Myanmar junta," she said, adding that the route taken by Burma's neighbors of "reaching out and trying to engage them has not influenced them either."
Myanmar is regarded as one of the world's most oppressive nations. The National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide electoral victory in 1990, which the military leadership refused to accept. She has been held in confinement repeatedly since then.
Any move by the Obama administration to scale back sanctions on Burma could face strong opposition in Congress, where lawmakers have imposed a series of increasingly tougher restrictions on the Southeast Asian nation. The Bush administration also invested significant diplomatic capital into moving Burma for the first time onto the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, although proposed resolutions criticising the junta's behavior have been vetoed by Russia and China.
Vice President Biden last year was the key mover in the Senate of the Block Burmese JADE act, which renewed restrictions on the import of gems and tightened sanctions on mining projects there. The act also imposed new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the junta's leaders and their associates and created a post for a high-level envoy and policy coordinator for Burma.
But some human rights activists have begun to question the sanctions policies. In an influential report issued in October, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group argued that humanitarian aid should begin to flow into the country and bans on Burmese garments, agriculture and fishery products and restrictions on tourism should be lifted.
While Hillary has been careful not to tip her hand on the direction of the policy review, she has used strikingly mild language about the Burmese government, describing "the unfortunate path" taken by Myanmar leaving it "impervious to influence from anyone."

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