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Nine human rights organizations are calling on the United States government to prioritize democracy and human rights in Burma by exercising caution when it comes to the relaxation of sanctions.
In a letter to President Obama dated April 24, 2012, the groups urge a gradual approach that “enables the U.S. government to engage and influence the Burmese government in a direction that supports genuine and sustained political reform towards democratization, durable peace, and improved respect for human rights.”
Aung Din, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, further cautioned, “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi recently stated on a scale from one to ten, Burma’s progress towards democracy is ‘on the way to one.’ Given the magnitude and depth of the obstacles still ahead, governments around the world, including the United States, are prematurely rushing to reward the regime, before a genuine transition to democracy has taken place.”
“While the international community lauds the ‘positive changes’ taking place in Burma, many have ignored the ‘negative changes’: the escalating atrocities the Burmese Army continues to commit against the Kachin and legalized land confiscation laws. Burma’s changes have been ‘one step forward and two steps back’.”
The letter comes on the heels of an initiative by corporate interests encouraging President Obama to ease restrictions on private investment across all sectors of the Burmese economy.
United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews stated, “The issue of rolling back sanctions on Burma could be a matter of life and death for tens of thousands now under siege by the Burmese military. Any changes should be linked to specific action by the Burmese government, starting with an end to the ongoing human rights violations.”
Andrews recently returned from a trip to Burma’s Kachin State where 75,000 Kachin people have been displaced by Burmese army attacks. The organization also just released a report, “Not Open for Business”, warning investors that risks remain high.
Aung Din and Andrews will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. in a hearing, Oversight of U.S. Policy Toward Burma.