Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Reasons and Responses on Canada's Suspension of Sanctions on Burma
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 10:55 AM From: "CFOB"
Excerpts from Postmedia News article:
"We put in sanctions to try and change, try to encourage the government to change course. They've made substantial progress."
– John Baird, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister
"[t]he timing is wrong for Canada to ease sanctions at this point in time, and should have waited a bit to see a clear picture of what would unfold in the coming weeks and months."
– Tin Maung Htoo, Canadian Friends of Burma
“[a] number of Canadian firms, particularly in the energy sector, have expressed an interest in joining the rush of international companies that are now in the capital Yangon, looking for potential contracts and opportunities. They see that there are a lot of oil and gas pipeline opportunities over there. Some gold mining companies are also looking for the opportunities."
– Kyaw Tin, Burmese Ambassador to Canada
Canada suspends sanctions against Burma
By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News April 24, 2012
OTTAWA — Canada has become the latest country to suspend sanctions against Myanmar in recognition of recent democratic reforms introduced by that country's military government.
"We put in sanctions to try and change, try to encourage the government to change course," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told reporters on Parliament Hill on Tuesday. "They've made substantial progress."
Myanmar, which is also called Burma, held historic byelections earlier this month that saw Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy take the majority of seats that were up for grabs.
This was a dramatic development as the southeast Asian nation's military junta had ruled with an iron fist for decades, including holding political opponent Suu Kyi under house arrest and conducting several violent crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators.
The United States, European Union and Australia all had moved to ease their own sanctions against Myanmar on Monday.
But some questioned Tuesday whether Canada had acted too soon.
Tin Maung Htoo, executive director of the Canadian Friends of Burma, an Ottawa-based organization that has sought to raise awareness of the problems in Myanmar, said a political battle over that country's controversial constitution is brewing.
Suu Kyi and other opposition members have refused to take their seats in the country's national legislature as they have refused to swear an oath to protect the constitution, which sets aside a quarter of all seats for the military.
"Therefore, the timing is wrong for Canada to ease sanctions at this point in time, and should have waited a bit to see a clear picture of what would unfold in the coming weeks and months," Htoo said.
The sanctions can be re-imposed "if progress is reversed," Baird said. A prohibition on weapons sales will remain in place.
The minister acknowledged there are still "no guarantees" the ruling regime won't backtrack on the reforms being undertaken, and that there are some in power who are resisting change, "but we want to be optimistic."
"Some people are pro-reform, notably the president. And others are against the reforms. And there's some that are sitting on the fence. And we want to say to those people who are sitting on the fence to join the camp for reform."
Myanmar's ambassador to Canada, Kyaw Tin, welcomed the announcement and insisted his country's move toward democracy is genuine.
"Our government is making significant democratic changes which is surprising everyone.
"So the reform process needs to be encouraged."
Baird described the suspension of sanctions as largely symbolic because trade between Canada and Myanmar has been essentially non-existent for decades.
But Tin said a number of Canadian firms, particularly in the energy sector, have expressed an interest in joining the rush of international companies that are now in the capital Yangon, looking for potential contracts and opportunities.
"They see that there are a lot of oil and gas pipeline opportunities over there," Tin said of the energy firms. "Some gold mining companies are also looking for the opportunities."
Baird said the fact Myanmar has started becoming more democratic in recent months is "probably one of the best examples in the modern era of where sanctions have proven very effective."
Asked what role international sanctions played in his government's decision to move toward democracy,
Tin offered a mixed assessment.
"The leadership wanted to do this because they feel like our government has been lagging behind in economic development compared to other countries," he said. "We want to improve the life of the people. That is why they are acting to remove the sanctions.
"I don't know whether you can count this as the role of the sanctions."
Posted by Kyi May at 8:16 AM