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» 02/09/2011
Western sanctions touch the regime, not the people, trade union leader says
NCUB General Secretary U Maung Maung explains that the embargo imposed by the US and the EU does affect the civilian population. Most people survive thanks to border smuggling. The junta’s decision to close the border is the cause of poverty. For Aung San Suu Kyi, the economy is crucial to improving human rights.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – US and EU sanctions against Myanmar do not affect the population but are useful in curbing the business activities of the country’s military junta. Widespread poverty is not the by-product of the Western embargo, but the result of the half-backed policies of the regime. In a situation of repression and exploitation of the people, Aung San Suu Kyi wants to use the economy to carve a role for herself in the country’s politics whilst helping to improve the standards of living of ordinary people.

Yesterday, Burma’s opposition opened the door to possible changes to the regime of economic sanctions imposed on the country. In a press statement, the National League for Democracy (NLD) called on the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia to study the possibility of changes "in the interests of democracy, human rights and a healthy economic environment."

Speaking to AsiaNews, U Maung Maung, general secretary of the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), an organisation founded in 1992 with the aim of establishing full democracy in Burma, is clear about it. “First of all, sanctions adopted by the US and EU have no effect on the civilian population.”

“There are more or less two types of sanctions,” he explained, those imposed by the United States and those by the European Union. “Looking at the data, it is clear that most trade is with the nations of the EU.”

According to U Maung Maung, who is also a leading trade union leader in the fight for democracy, data show that “the people depend primarily on border smuggling for their survival.” In fact, the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) closed the borders to trade, thus harming the people. “The SPDC, not US or EU sanctions, is to blame for poverty.”

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for targeted investments yesterday. In her view, they would help improve standards of living of the population without helping the business dealings of the military.

According to a source in Myanmar that spoke to AsiaNews on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, the Nobel Prize laureate “wants to play a political role in the country” beyond that of heroine “with the tacit consent of the government, which lets her do it.”

Aung San Suu Kyi “wants to become relevant in the lives of people,” the source said. “With the economy and her views on sanctions, she wants to improve the rights of the people.” However, the average Burmese do not feel sanctions to be a fundamental issue because their day-to-day struggle for survival comes first. The real tragedy would be if the Burmese people “got used to the regime” and lose the will to fight. (DS)

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See also
02/08/2011 MYANMAR
Burmese opposition now open to changes to Western sanctions
Aung San Suu Kyi “not opposed” to lifting some sanctions
02/02/2009 MYANMAR
Aung San Suu Kyi meets with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari
As Obama welcomes Myanmar president, praises his reforms, human rights activists criticise him
Japan against lifting arms sale ban against China

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