(Mizzima) – The Australian Government is revising its Burma sanctions list and reducing the number of individuals to whom it applies.
The changes are an acknowledgement that Burma is taking a number of important steps towards a more open democracy and greater engagement with the region, said a government news release.
Former Burmese ministers and deputy ministers who are no longer in politics will be removed from the list, as will tourism officials.
“We hope positive developments, such as the increased participation of opposition parties in the political process, the release of around 220 political prisoners, and new labour laws that will legalize trade unions, will continue. In this context we will keep our approach to sanctions under review,” Foreign Minister Rudd said on Monday.
Australia applies targeted financial sanctions and travel restrictions to individuals and has an arms embargo in place, which will remain.
“There is much progress still to be made in Burma, and Australia continues to urge the release of all political prisoners, free and fair by-elections and the peaceful resolution of ethnic conflicts in Burma,” Rudd said.
“Australia retains the ability to add individuals to the sanctions list at any time, but members of Burma’s new Government who were not previously on Australia’s sanctions list will not be listed at this time,” he said. “There is much progress still to be made in Burma, and Australia continues to urge the release of all political prisoners, free and fair by-elections and the peaceful resolution of ethnic conflicts in Burma.”
Rudd said Australia was in discussions with Aung San Suu Kyi and other stakeholders regarding its sanctions policy and political developments in Burma.
The US has not revised its sanctions against Burma, saying the country must show more progress towards democracy and meet certain preconditions such as releasing all political prisoners and allowing international aid agencies access to refugees in conflict zones in the civil war.
U.S. sanctions include freezing assets owned by the Burmese government and its business cronies, visa bans and import and investment sanctions.
The National League for Democracy has said that its policy is that sanctions should be lifted only after substantial reforms are implemented.
“In international relations, from now on, Burma needs to reform itself. Only after that can the country have friendly cooperation with these countries,” said an NLD spokesperson.
The European Union is said to be looking at its Burma sanctions policy.