By Zin Linn
Sanction is a big question for Burma’s successive regimes. Western democratic governments have used sanctions to pressure the regime in order to amend its unacceptable deeds in the areas of human rights, jurisdiction and inequality of business opportunities.
With such an insightful approach, sanctions have strengthened both the legitimacy and possibility of political dialogue in Burma. In fact, sanctions are effective tools to advance the dialogue process between the regime and the opposition.
The United States on Tuesday eased financial sanctions on Burma to enable private U.S.-based groups to do charity work in the impoverished country, according to today AP News.
The announcement by the Treasury Department is the first of a series of rewards from Washington in response to the country’s by-elections this month. The U.S. also has a plan to appoint a permanent ambassador for the first time in more than two decades, as a sign of reducing restrictions on American investment and the export of other financial services. But, trade sanctions will not be lifted immediately.
Australia and Norway also followed the example of the US.
Burma’s Nobel laureate and democracy icon is no longer under house arrest. The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi isn’t an unregistered or illegal political party right now. It has even won 43 seats in the recent bi-elections. Most analysts agree to consider such kind of circumstances as positive comparing to past two decades.
It is true that Suu Kyi’s NLD won 43 out of the 45 seats in by-elections, a grand victory in the face of broad irregularities and threats during the campaign time. However, the NLD’s official opposition place in parliamentary politics of Burma is not a well-built fortress, as the party holds somewhat 7 per cent of seats in the assembly.
Again, Thein Sein government released hundreds of political prisoners including prominent 88 generation student activists and ethnic politicians. Many see it as a positive move although they were detained several years without breaking any criminal law. However, there are many more political prisoners still behind bars. It is also necessary to release unconditionally all remaining political prisoners under fabricated terrorism charges.
During ASEAN’s two-day annual summit meeting in Cambodia, ASEAN leaders agreed urging western countries to lift sanctions against Burma. But, many dissidents, inside and outside of the country, consider lifting of sanctions seems a little earlier. Actually, the government needs many more things to do with the aim of consolidating the reforms.
Western Democracies need to put emphasis on the military-monopolized 2008 Constitution which gives too much power to military such as 25 per cent parliamentary seats without contesting in elections and it also officially allows the military boss to hold power on security reasons. It is required to amend the military dominant provisions in keeping democratic norms.
Average citizens feel the present ground situation as unchanged. Especially, people displease with the law courts tainted with corruptions. The current government needs to establish ‘Independent Judicial System’ to prevent discrimination, injustice and imitation of rule of law.
Today, citizens have no rights to enjoy the fair proceedings. Most court judgments were made by superior government officials rather than the respective judges. In such a moment, people feel government’s reform scheme as a fruitless.
An exceptional shortcoming which does not go match with reform is the ongoing civil war with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Western democracies must think time and again on the topic of lifting of sanctions as an incentive for the President Thein Sein government.
They ought to urge the Thein Sein government to stop military offensives against ethnic minority people. Currently, the war against the Kachin people is at its peak and burning villages, looting, rape and extra judicial killing are still going on. There are over 60,000 Kachin war refugees on the Sino-Burma border without any humanitarian assistance from the ruling government.
Hence, Western democracies that imposed sanctions on Burma should observe obvious facts of additional reforms, including the release of all political prisoners, genuine talks headed for national reconciliation, with all ethnic groups oppressed by the Burma Army. Economic reform is also crucial to grant equal business opportunity to each and every one and to stop current crony capitalism including unruly land confiscations from poor farmers.
To strengthen its reform agenda, the Burmese government needs to endorse or stick to additional international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), and the Rome Statute.