UPDATE: Myanmar: EU to ease sanctions; NLD defers parliamentary debut

Updated On: Apr 23, 2012

The EU agreed on Monday to ease a wide range of sanctions on Myanmar on Monday, as exiles urged the US to go slow on lifting restrictions. EU ministers from the 27 nation bloc agreed to suspend sanctions on almost 500 individuals and over 800 firms. Despite the speed of the pace of reforms, EU states are still split on how quickly to raise sanctions. A statement adopted by ministers said that the EU "will
monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under
constant review and respond positively to progress on ongoing reforms."

Meanwhile, Myanmar President Thein Sein said yesterday that a revision of the Parliament's oath of office was possible, after members of the NLD refused to take their seats. Mr Sein told reporters during his
state visit to Japan that he was open to discussing changes to the oath, however, the secretary-general of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development
Party, Mr Htay Oo, said his party would not introduce any proposal to
change the oath. Observers have questioned the decision of the NLD to delay taking their seats at this juncture, given the many pressing issues that need to be handled right now in Parliament

Report:  Myanmar President open to oath revision (TODAYOnline, 24 April 2012)

Report: EU suspends most sanctions against Myanmar (CNA, 23 April 2012)

Japan to write off debt; EU to end sanctions; NLD delays debut in Parliament

Japan on Saturday agreed to waive more than $3.7 billion owed by Myanmar and restart full financial aid to the country, the first time since 1987, highlighting the deepest thaw yet in the country’s relations with the outside world. Meanwhile the European Union (EU) is expected to ease sanctions on Monday, admidst the decision by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to defer its political debut over the wording in the oath for members of parliament.

Japan to write off debt owed by Myanmar

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein was in Tokyo on Saturday for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, during which both leaders concluded an accord for Japan to write off more than $3.7b billion of debt owed by Myanmar and to resume development aid. The meeting was held on the sidelines of a regional summit.

The accord comes as Japan boosts economic and political ties in Southeast Asia to tap on growth opportunities and counter Chinese influence in the region. At the regional summit, Japan announced it would provide Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with $7.4 billion in development aid over the next three years to assist in infrastructure construction.

The visit also marks the first time in three decades that a leader from Myanmar visited Japan, highlighting the deepest thaw yet in the country’s relations with the outside world.

Report: Japan to Waive Myanmar Debt (Wall Street Journal, 21 Apr 2012)

Report: Japan to write off $3.7bn Burma debt (BBC, 21 Apr 2012)

EU prepares to ease sanctions on Myanmar

Myanmar’s reformist rulers are looking forward to an eagerly awaited easing of European Union sanctions on Monday.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg are expected to temporarily lift most sanctions against Myanmar for a year, with the possibility of a review in six months. The sanctions currently target over 800 companies and nearly 500 people, and include the suspension of some development aid. The US is under pressure to do the same. Norway on Sunday made the decision to remove all limits on foreign aid, financing and visas.

However, many human rights groups are calling for Western countries to move slowly, saying the country’s partial return to reforms is not a cause for celebration. An ongoing offensive by Myanmar’s military against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north ensures that sanctions on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression will remain.

Report: As the EU gets set to ease Myanmar sanctions, activists plead for the West to move slowly (Washington Post, 21 Apr 2012)

Report: Myanmar awaits EU sanction easing; Suu Kyi delays debut (Reuters, 22 Apr 2012)

Suu Kyi’s party delays political debut in Myanmar’s parliament

On Sunday, Ms Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD, said its members will not take their seats when the parliament reconvenes on Monday. Ms Suu Kyi had warned last week that she did not agree with the wording of an oath of constitutional allegiance for new Members of Parliament (MPs). However, she asserted that the MPs of the NLD were merely “postponing” their entry rather than “boycotting” the Parliament.

NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing said the party opposed the oath’s requirement to “safeguard” the constitution, which was written up under the previous military junta. He insisted that the oath should only call for “respecting” the constitution. Authorities have rejected the party's appeal to change the wording, and a letter to the office of President Thein Sein on the issue was sent too late for the row to be resolved before the session of parliament begins on Monday.

The political deadlock caught diplomats and analysts in Yangon off-guard, and is a dampener ever since the watershed by-elections on 1 April in which the NLD won of 43 out of 45 seats contested.

Nonetheless, it is unlikely to impact the easing of sanctions, with the West determined to work out the best way to roll back on restrictions to allow greater engagement and investment by companies eager to move into Myanmar’s untapped markets.

Report: Aung San Suu Kyi confirms party will postpone Burma parliamentary debut(Telegraph, 22 Apr 2012)

Report: Suu Kyi’s party postpones taking up seats (Financial Times, 22 Apr 2012)

Report: Myanmar awaits EU sanction easing; Suu Kyi delays debut (Reuters, 22 Apr 2012)

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