The Obama administration rewards the isolated nation's democratic reforms. Will the country's military respond by further opening up — or by backsliding?
On Thursday, President Obama nominated a new ambassador to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), renewing diplomatic ties that had been frozen for two decades. The U.S. also suspended some of the sanctions imposed when Myanmar's military began to crack down on the country's political opposition in 1988. The new moves were a response to the swearing in of pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as a member of parliament, although human rights activists called the American gestures premature, pointing out that the military-dominated government still holds hundreds of political prisoners. Will easing sanctions nudge the country towards democracy, or merely remove the incentive for further reforms?
We shouldn't ease pressure on Myanmar yet: It's too early to reward the government's "untested changes by allowing an unregulated business bonanza," says John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. If we're not careful, Western investment might end up fueling human rights abuses like forced labor, and "strengthening the military's control over civilian authorities."
"US/Burma: Don't lift sanctions too soon"
If anything, we should move faster: The U.S. should be even "more proactive" to encourage further democratic change, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) tells The Christian Science Monitor. The European Union has already lifted all economic sanctions against Myanmar's leaders, with Aung San Suu Kyi's full support. We should follow suit.
"Obama names ambassador to Myanmar: Is US moving too slow or too fast?"
For now, this strikes a good balance: Make no mistake — this is big news, says Emily Lodish at Global Post. U.S. companies will be able to invest in Myanmar for the first time in decades. Still, with the easing of the ban came the renewal of restrictions that still bar Americans from doing business with anyone linked to the military. "The devil is in the details," and the fine print says that Obama still has some bargaining chips to keep the pressure on.
"Big news for Myanmar, but still not the biggest"
Other stories from this section:
- 10 things you need to know today: May 18, 2012
- The suspension of Ratko Mladic's war-crimes trial: A concise guide
- 10 things you need to know today: May 17, 2012
- Politics & Government
- Foreign Policy
- President Obama
- Aung San Suu Kyi