Obama Extends Myanmar Sanctions to Keep Pressure for Democracy

President Barack Obama ordered sanctions extended on Myanmar to keep up pressure on the government to move toward democracy.

The Southeast Asian country, which the U.S. refers to as Burma, “has made important strides, but the political opening is nascent, and we continue to have concerns including remaining political prisoners, ongoing conflict, and serious human rights abuses in ethnic areas,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

Obama said there has been progress toward democracy, including the release of “hundreds” of political prisoners, pursuit of cease-fire talks with several armed ethnic groups, and talks with Burma’s leading pro-democracy opposition party.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was meeting in Washington today with Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, said last month that the U.S. will selectively lift restrictions on investment in Myanmar after elections allowed democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi to win a seat in parliament.

Suu Kyi said earlier this week that other nations shouldn’t yet end sanctions against the regime. She said a suspension of the penalties are a “possible first step” to ensure the government continues moving toward democratization.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has proposed suspending U.S. sanctions, except for an arms embargo and provisions targeted at individuals and entities in Myanmar that impede the movement toward democracy.

Suu Kyi, speaking by video link to a conference on freedom by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, said her country still has a long way to go.

“The democratization process is not irreversible,” she said.

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