The issue over Burma’s sanctions has been a hot topic of debate since Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrival in parliament.

Many human rights groups are urging the West to move slowly as it re-engages with Burma, saying the country’s partial return to democracy is not cause for celebration. Burma’s elected rulers today are the same men who just two years ago led a military government condemned as tyrannical by much of the world for jailing more than 2,000 political prisoners, conducting brutal counterinsurgency wars against ethnic minorities and failing to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

On Monday, the biggest rollback yet will take place, when the European Union is expected to temporarily lift most sanctions against Burma. The United States is under pressure to follow suit. Norway last Sunday decided to remove all limits on foreign aid, financing and visas.

“We’re doing this to send a positive signal to those behind the reforms of the last year,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told reporters. “The changes we’ve seen in the country during this period are more than anyone could expect.”
However, uneasiness over a continuing offensive by Burma’s military against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north is a major concern of those urging a lifting of sanctions. This past week, the U.S.-based activist organization United to End Genocide released a report as part of a corporate responsibility project warning that rushing to invest with Burma might only make the country’s problems worse.

President, Tom Andrews, said “There is no evidence of reform for many desperate people in Burma. In Kachin state, the ethnic minorities saw bullets, not ballots, on election day. Tens of thousands of people have already been displaced, and now the Burmese army is actively increasing its troop presence.”

I think it’s important to create incentives for further reform and democratic progress.

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