Myanmar's Suu Kyi says sanctions remain tool for change

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2012 1:24 PM
Myanmar's Suu Kyi says sanctions remain tool for change

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A suspension of U.S. sanctions against Myanmar, rather than a full removal of the penalties, would keep pressure on the government to stay on track with political reforms, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday.

"I'm not against the suspension of sanctions as long as the people of the United States feel that this is the right thing to do at the moment," she said in a video conference to a gathering in Washington.

"I believe sanctions have been effective in persuading the government to go for change," said Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi and 42 other members of her National League for Democracy party took their seats in parliament this month following a historic by-election in a year of dramatic reforms in the former British colony also known as Burma.

Suspending sanctions imposed over the past two decades in response to harsh military rule, as has been done by the European Union, "is a way of sending a strong message" of support for nascent reforms while retaining leverage, she said.

"People are too optimistic about the scene in Burma," Suu Kyi warned an audience gathered to mark former President George W. Bush's "Freedom Collection" of papers and artifacts from famous dissidents and democracy movements around the world.

Myanmar's reforms are "not irreversible" until the country's military leaders "solidly and officially" commit to democratization, said the Nobel Peace laureate, who spent most of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Explaining the Left: Part II
Dennis Prager

While the government had released hundreds of political prisoners since last year, 271 prisoners from a list her NLD party gave Myanmar's home minister remain in jail, said Suu Kyi.

"There should be no political prisoners in Burma if they really aim for democratization," she said.

Washington has gradually lifted some of the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar from 1990-2008, allowing technical assistance by international financial institutions and authorizing financial transactions for non-profit projects.

(Reporting By Paul Eckert; Editing by Anthony Boadle)