Apr 25, 2012

Canada lifts most sanctions against Myanmar

Canada on Tuesday lifted most sanctions against Myanmar, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced, saying the long-isolated nation has "changed course in a major way."

The move by Canada came one day after the suspension by the European Union of most sanctions against the country formerly known as Burma.

"Effective immediately, Canada is suspending our sanctions on Burma," Baird said. "Prohibitions on imports, exports and investment have for the most part been removed," as well as individual sanctions, he said.
But a Canadian arms embargo against the country was left intact.

Suspension of the sanctions is intended to bolster sweeping reforms in the one-time pariah nation. A landmark by-election held this month resulted in the election to parliament of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The measures were imposed on Myanmar starting in 1988 "to try to encourage the government to change course, and they've changed course in a major way," Baird said.

"Given that the government has taken such significant reforms, we're prepared to give them a shot," he said.
Baird pointed to a "very real pace and scope of changes taking place in Burma."

He said this progress included the release of political prisoners, a by-election "seemingly free of intimidation or violence," and Suu Kyi's election victory "that happened largely without problems."
"We want to see reforms continue," he said.

As well, he encouraged "people sitting on the fence to join the camp for reform."

But Baird added that Canada would not hesitate to re-impose sanctions if Myanmar backslides.

"We're very hopeful and optimistic, at the same time we're not naive, we'll be watching, very, very closely," along with the international community, as events unfold in the still army-dominated nation, he said.

Source: AFP

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