The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday it is lifting sanctions against Burmese President Thein Sein and Lower House of Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann in a move meant to both reward recent democratic reforms in the country and heed advice by a leading activist.
On her first trip to the U.S. since being put under house arrest in 1988, pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi told the Asia Society on Tuesday "for my part I don't think we need to cling onto sanctions unnecessarily."
Now an MP in the Burmese parliament, Suu Kyi spent 15 of the last 20 years under house arrest by the Burmese military junta. Even so, she said Tuesday, "I have always been for engagement. You can engage in different way...as friends or as people who have agreed to disagree."
"It is to me a sad thing that engagement between our two countries came to almost nothing during two decades or more. But now the situation has changed," she added.
The announcement from the Treasury Department came just a day after Suu Kyi made the remarks and the week before Thein Sein is slated to be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
The announcement also coincided with additional pro-democracy reforms carried out by the Burmese government, largely still tacitly controlled by the military but which now also includes the input of civilians like Suu Kyi.
On Monday, Thein Sein's government announced plans to release more than 500 political prisoners. Members of the opposition in Burma said this could mean all remaining political prisoners will be released. Details from the government were not forthcoming.
Suu Kyi also made demands for such a release on Tuesday, stating, "If you talk of genuine democratization, there should be no political prisoners...there should be no prisoners of conscience."
The Treasury Department action will take Sein and Mann off the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN). This un-blocks property and assets in the U.S. and allows transactions involving U.S. persons.
"Today's removal also acknowledges Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann's efforts on behalf of reform and supports U.S. national security and foreign policy goals," the Treasury Department statement said.
Today's removal also acknowledges Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann's efforts on behalf of reform and supports U.S. national security and foreign policy goals.
"Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann have taken concrete steps to promote political reforms and human rights, and to move Burma away from repression and dictatorship toward democracy and freedom, warranting today's delisting action," Under Secretary David S. Cohen said in a press release.
Moving ahead, additional listings or delistings could be announced to meet changing conditions in Burma, the Treasury added.
Suu Kyi will spend a total of 17 days in the United States. After Washington, D.C., she will also visit California, New York and Fort Wayne, Indiana, home to one of the country's largest Burmese-American communities.
by RTT Staff Writer
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