UN chief calls for lifting of sanctions on Myanmar

AP News
Posted: Apr 30, 2012 8:40 AM
UN chief calls for lifting of sanctions on Myanmar

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community on Monday to lift its sanctions on Myanmar to support democratic reforms and to substantially increase aid for the country's development.

Ban said in a speech to parliament that the world should match the ambitions of the country's people for democracy and change.

But he also urged Myanmar to deal with "difficult issues" including the resettlement of displaced communities, security guarantees for ethnic and political groups and the release of all political prisoners.

Ban has said he is visiting Myanmar now because there is "an unprecedented opportunity" to help democratic change at this "critical moment."

It is his third visit to Myanmar as secretary-general, but his first since a 2010 general election helped install a nominally civilian government, the country's first since a military coup in 1962.

The visit is the latest in a series by foreign dignitaries since President Thein Sein's reform campaign gathered steam by winning the endorsement of the leader of Myanmar's democracy movement, former political detainee Aung San Suu Kyi. The election that brought Thein Sein to power left the military in firm control but signaled a desire for political reconciliation.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are also visiting Myanmar this week. Since January, the country has hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Canada.

The visits have heralded an easing of sanctions imposed by their governments because of the previous military junta's repressive policies.

In Ban's speech to the lawmakers, believed to be the first by a foreigner in the country's parliament, he said Myanmar's recent dramatic changes have inspired the world. "And we know that your ambitions for the future reach higher still," he said.

Ban said the international community should "go even further in lifting, suspending or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions" and recognize that Myanmar needs a substantial increase in development aid and foreign investment.

"The best way for the international community to support reform is to invest in it," he said.

Ban noted ongoing military operations against the Kachin ethnic minority in northern Myanmar, a situation that has led Western nations to maintain an arms embargo against Myanmar despite the lifting of other restrictions. Calling the fighting inconsistent with the conclusion of cease-fires with other ethnic minorities, he said, "The Kachin people should no longer be denied the opportunity that a cease-fire and a political agreement can bring for peace and development."

He urged the government to continue to allow humanitarian supplies to reach the Kachin area.