02/08/2011, 00.00
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Burmese opposition now open to changes to Western sanctions

Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD want targeted foreign investments to help the population. They appeal to the United States and the European Union to discuss the issue “in the interests of democracy”. Sanctions are seen as an issue on which the opposition leader can talk to foreign governments.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Burma's opposition is now open to possible changes Western economic sanctions imposed on the country to stop the junta’s business dealings. Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) said the country needs foreign investments to help improve standards of living, as long as they are targeted so that they do not favour the business interests of the ruling junta.

The United States, the European Union and other Western nations have imposed a trade (and weapons) embargo on Myanmar because of the regime’s poor human rights record.

For the Nobel Prize laureate, who was released in November after spending 15 of the previous 21 years under arrest, investments would be good for the country after so many years under a ban.

In a statement today, the NLD called for discussion with the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia "with a view to reaching agreement on when, how and in what circumstances, sanctions might be modified in the interests of democracy, human rights and a healthy economic environment."

Sanctions have been highly controversial. Some are against them because they tend to hurt the population whilst the junta can do business without any problems with nations like China, India and Thailand that are unconcerned about the embargo. Others, like the Burmese government-in-exile, see it as a useful tool to hit at the interests of the military.

For Burma watchers, Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are calling for review of the sanctions in order to engage the West, going around the censorship of the military regime.

In the past, Ms Aung, then under house arrest, directly appealed to the regime’s strongman, General Than Swe, offering herself as a mediator between the Burmese government and the United States in order to improve the country’s economy and the standards of living of the population.

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