Opposition Leader On Sanctions

Burma’s main opposition leader dismisses reports that she might support an easing of sanctions against the country’s military junta.
2009-08-17
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Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting with Burma’s labor minister, Jan. 30, 2008.
Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting with Burma’s labor minister, Jan. 30, 2008.
AFP

BANGKOK—Aung San Suu Kyi has dismissed published reports that she might support the lifting of certain sanctions aimed at pressuring Burma’s leaders, according to the opposition leader’s party spokesman.

National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi feels continued sanctions are needed, contrary to reports that she is “not opposed” to the idea of lifting “some” sanctions against Burma.

Nyan Win’s statement was in contrast to one made by Senator Jim Webb in Bangkok on Monday after Webb met with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and junta leaders over the weekend.

Webb, a Virginia Democrat, told journalists at a press conference there that it was "my clear impression from [Aung San Suu Kyi] that she is not opposed to lifting some sanctions."

"I can say it was my impression from listening to her in the conversation that there were some areas that she would be willing to look at," Webb said, before declining to comment further for fear, he said, of misrepresenting Aung San Suu Kyi’s position.

The Senator could not immediately be reached for comment.

Webb is currently on a two-week tour of Southeast Asia. His visit to Burma resulted in the release of American John Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment at hard labor for making an unauthorized visit to Aung San Suu Kyi at her home.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi told him in a meeting on Monday that Webb “suggested she should have an interaction with Western nations on the sanctions issue” during their meeting.

“She said that there should be an interaction inside the country first, and that it would be of no benefit to have an interaction with the West before having any inside,” he said.

Nyan Win said that Aung San Suu Kyi had previously offered to discuss the issue of sanctions with the military regime, but that the junta had let the matter drop.

Policy under review

Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly discouraged foreign investment in Burma in an effort to pressure the country’s military government, but Webb has been a prominent critic of U.S. sanctions.

Webb, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, has called for a review of U.S. policy towards Burma.

He maintains that sanctions have failed to move Burma toward true democratic reforms and have given China, the country’s northern neighbor, more influence over its internal affairs.

China plans to build a gas pipeline to its southern Yunnan province from the Andaman Sea through Burma.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier this year that U.S. sanctions policy would be reviewed, with potential incentives offered to Burma’s leadership if they make substantive political changes.

The United States and other Western nations have few dealings with Burma’s regime, preferring to use political and economic sanctions to pressure it to clean up its poor human rights record and lift its chokehold on power

Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted last week of breaching the terms of her house arrest when Yettaw visited her home and was ordered to serve 18 months under house arrest. She has been detained by the junta for 14 of the past 20 years.

Yettaw was deported from Burma on Sunday, after Webb became the first senior U.S. official to meet junta leader Gen. Than Shwe, and is currently being treated in a Thai hospital.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

Original reporting by Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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