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Maintain suspended sanctions against Myanmar urged ASEAN parliamentarians

Asian Tribune:

April 13, 2013

The European Union (EU) should renew its suspension of
sanctions against Myanmar but stop short of a total lifting of restrictive
measures, ASEAN Parliamentarians said today, citing serious human rights
concerns and the failure of the Myanmar government to meet EU benchmarks for

The call came ahead of the 22 April meeting of the EU
Foreign Affairs Council to decide the future of the EU’s restrictive measures
against Myanmar in light of the ending of the current 12-month suspension of
sanctions on 30 April.

When the EU announced the one-year suspension of
sanctions last year, it set a number of key benchmarks for the Myanmar
government to achieve if restrictive measures were to be lifted permanently.
Although many reforms have taken place over the past 12 months, none of those
key benchmarks have been met and in many instances, the human rights situation
in the country has worsened in the past year rather than improved. The EU
should extend the suspension of restrictive measures against Myanmar for one
more year, again stressing the benchmarks that the country must meet if it does
not want to see sanctions reinstated.

Council Regulation (EU) No 409/2012 provided for the
suspension of restrictive measures, until 30 April 2013, with the exception of
the arms embargo and the embargo on equipment which might be used for internal
repression, which were retained.

“We are very concerned that if the possibility of the
return of sanctions is removed completely and prematurely it could unhinge what
is already proving to be a very fragile and top-down reform process. The
credible threat that sanctions could be reinstated if genuine legislative and
political reforms and respect for human rights are not put in place is a
crucial component of a complex system of efforts to keep this reform process
moving forward,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, AIPMC president and Indonesian Member
of Parliament.

“International pressure has played a considerable role
in encouraging reformers within the government in Myanmar to support the
democratic steps we have witnessed over the past two years. A careful balance
needs to be struck between encouragement and continued pressure – permanently
lifting EU sanctions now would be sending the wrong message.”

When the EU suspended sanctions on 26th April 2012, it
made clear the progress it expected to see in response, stating in the Council

“…the EU still expects the unconditional release of
remaining political prisoners and the removal of all restrictions placed on
those already released. It looks forward to the end of conflict and to
substantially improved access for humanitarian assistance, in particular for
those affected by conflict in Kachin State and along the Eastern border, as
well as to addressing the status and improving the welfare of the Rohingyas.”

Unfortunately, none of these benchmarks have been met,
and in many instances, the situations have deteriorated. Hundreds of political
prisoners remain behind bars, the war in Kachin State has intensified and
ceasefires with other armed groups are under threat. Of increasing concern is
the continued plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar. Over
120,000 Rohingya remain trapped in squalid camps while the government continues
to execute a policy of segregation of Muslim and Buddhist communities, which
has fuelled sectarian tensions. The Rohingya remain persecuted and hounded by
archaic and repressive laws that deny hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims
their basic human rights. Moreover, humanitarian access to IDPs and hundreds of
thousands of others in need of assistance remains hampered and a host of
repressive laws remain on the books under a flawed, military-penned

The authorities have failed to react sufficiently to
prevent recent killings of dozens of Muslim men, women and children and to
reduce the fanning of inter-communal violence and hatred. Hundreds of homes,
mosques and businesses owned by Muslims have been burned to the ground by mobs
led in many cases by Buddhist monks.

“We are extremely concerned by these recent acts of
violence against Muslim communities and the spreading of anti-Muslim propaganda
that point towards ethnic cleansing taking place inside Myanmar. The
authorities did not do enough to stop the killing and they are not doing enough
to prevent it happening again,” said Ms. Sundari.

In light of these continued concerns, AIPMC calls on
the international community, ASEAN countries included, to continue to send the
right message to the power holders in Myanmar. If the EU chooses to permanently
lift sanctions despite the grave human rights concerns that continue to hang
over this government, then it will simply be telling them that they have the
freedom to ignore international demands, violate international law, and
continue to commit abuses with impunity.

“We are very concerned by the recent inter-communal
violence in Burma and the ongoing plight of the Rohingya people, as well as
many other ethnic communities around Myanmar who have suffered through decades
of armed conflict. ” said Son Chhay, AIPMC Vice President and Cambodian MP.

“But we are seeing the wrong signals being sent and
trade usurping human rights on many levels of international engagement with
this reform process. We just hope the EU Foreign Affairs Council will not
ignore the serious human rights violations continuing in Myanmar and the need
to maintain sanctions, in a suspended state, as an essential safeguard to
ensure Myanmar does not backslide from this reform process and comprehensively
addresses urgent human rights concerns.”