05/18/2012, 00.00
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Washington removes some sanctions and appoints an ambassador to Myanmar

U.S. President Obama speaks of a "new chapter" in relations between the United States and Burma. Derek Mitchell will lead U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Southeast Asian nation, first in 22 years. Hillary Clinton invites American businessmen to invest "responsibly".

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - U.S. President Barack Obama said he had opened a "new chapter" in relations between the U.S. and Myanmar, loosening sanctions on investment and trade with Burma and appointed the first ambassador in 22 years of recent history. The decision, says the head of the White House, is the result of democratic reforms initiated by the South-East Asian nation from late 2010 to today, including the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - today a member of Parliament - the peace agreement with some ethnic minorities and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

President Obama has explained that a greater commitment to help the Burmese economy and internal reform will help the country advance on the path of democratic change. In this regard, he cited the election of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to the National Assembly, after having spent 15 of the last 22 years under house arrest by order of the former military junta led by General Than Shwe.

However, the U.S. has decided to keep "targeted sanctions" against individuals accused of human rights violations. After the meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin (pictured), the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that there are still some types of sanctions, to prevent possible "backward steps" by the leadership in Naypyidaw. "Today we say to American investors - said the head of U.S. diplomacy - to invest in Burma, and to do it responsibly."

In November 2010 the first elections in two decades marked the first, faint change in the wake of greater democratization of Myanmar. Following the vote, the junta also ordered the release of Aung San Suu Kyi because the terms of her house arrest had expired. In the following months there was the transition from military rule to the appointment of a civilian government, elected by a Parliament in which the military still remains the absolute master (25% of seats are reserved for army officials and almost all of the remaining 75% are in the hands of the party of the military). However, by-elections last April marked the entrance of the opposition leader in the Assembly, along with 42 other members of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The White House has also approved the appointment of the U.S. ambassador in Myanmar, the first in over two decades. Derek Mitchell, one-time coordinator of U.S. policies in the country for the Department of State will lead U.S. diplomacy in the former Burma. Finally Barack Obama has stated that "concerns remain" on some points, including political prisoners still in jail, conflicts against minority groups (above all with Kachin in the north) and the persistent violation of human rights in some areas occupied by ethnic minorities.

In recent weeks, the European Union has also suspended most of the trade sanctions on Myanmar, a decision supported by the Nobel Laureate. An embargo on arms sales remains in force for Washington and Brussels.



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