Burma's outlawed opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urged the country's military regime on Tuesday to improve its human rights record if it wants Western sanctions to be removed.
In a statement released today, the party said the junta, which is currently transforming itself into a military-dominated parliamentary government, should “take the necessary steps [to] speedily and assiduously” improve human rights conditions in Burma as a precondition for the lifting of sanctions.
The party also called for talks with Western countries that have imposed sanctions to determine under what conditions they would be willing to modify their sanctions policies.
Win Htein, a secretariat member of the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the party released the statement to highlight the fact that the sanctions are a response to continuing human rights abuses in Burma, and can therefore be lifted only when the regime releases political prisoners and takes other concrete steps toward improving its rights record.
“Lifting sanction should be considered only when the human rights situation in Burma improves,” he said.
The statement, which acknowledges growing opposition to sanctions both within Burma and in some of the countries that have imposed them, suggests that claims that sanctions are responsible for the economic hardships of ordinary Burmese are “based on political motives.”
According to the NLD's own findings, sanctions have not contributed substantially to Burma's economic woes, which it blames on mismanagement by the ruling regime and a business culture of “blatant cronyism.”
The statement notes that only one major industry—garment manufacturing—has been severely hit by sanctions, with earnings falling by US $400 million in 2003 as a result of losing access to US markets, according to the NLD's research. But the industry has since recovered due to an influx of new business from China, the statement said.
With most of Burma's export earnings coming from oil and gas, mining and other extractive industries, and 63 percent of the population dependent on agriculture, sanctions have had little impact on the lives of ordinary Burmese, according to the NLD.
While the statement denies that sanctions are a major cause of Burma's economic problems, it keeps the door open to investment in the country—provided it follows principles aimed at benefiting its people and protecting its natural environment.
“The NLD considers that in the meantime the economic hardships of the people would be ameliorated if businesses that have already invested, or are thinking of investing, in Burma were to observe guidelines aimed at conserving the ecological environment, protecting the rights of workers and promoting civil society,” says the statement.
The US, the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all imposed sanctions on Burma to pressure the ruling regime to end human rights violations and move toward a genuine democratic transition.
However, despite general elections held late last year and the election of a civilian president by the country's newly formed Parliament last week, few believe that the changes represent a real departure from the military-ruled past.
source by : irrawaddy