US pledges to remove sanctions on Myanmar despite concerns over military, human rights

September 15, 2016 4:41 AM

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US pledges to remove sanctions on Myanmar despite concerns over military, human rights

Human rights groups and certain U.S. politicians remain cautious, citing worries over the military's power in business and political affairs as well as the plight of Rohingya Muslims.

A controversial constitutional clause imposed by the military bans Suu Kyi from the presidency-she indirectly calls the shots via proxy leader and official President Htin Kyaw-a powerful reminder of just how influential the armed junta remains.

On Wednesday, U.S. Republican senator Cory Gardner called for close consultation with Congress regarding any changes in sanctions. An easing of economic penalties could potentially further aggrandize the military and its cronies who profit from the junta's prominence in business and politics, Gardner told Reuters.

Myanmar's armed junta officially dissolved in 2011, having initially staged a coup in 1962, but military dominance still prevailed under ex-president Thein Sein. The Union Solidarity and Development Party- the military's political vehicle-continues to exercise control in the defense, home affairs, and border affairs ministries. It also holds 25 percent of parliamentary seats and commands a legislative veto, further complicating the NLD's mandate.

The U.S. Campaign for Burma and STAND, two non-profit organizations, are fully opposed to a sanction-free Myanmar, noting the persecution and genocide of Rohingya Muslims as well as the military's abuse of ethnic minorities, whose number exceeds more than a hundred across the country.

Washington is well aware of these concerns but the decision on sanctions is aimed at improving livelihood conditions for the general population, pointed out Romain Caillaud, senior director at FTI Consulting.

While Suu Kyi has come under criticism for her silence on human rights violations, Caillaud noted that "she is slowly starting to drive change."

Last month, the former political prisoner appointed an advisory council led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to come up with recommendations on the Rohingya crisis. She also held a large peace conference in Naypyitaw on August 31 with representatives from the country's various ethnic groups to discuss, political representation, language and cultural issues.


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