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Suu Kyi party urges talks with West on sanctions

YANGON, Feb 8- Democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi\’s party appealed Tuesday for talks with Western nations about possible changes to sanctions against Myanmar, but said progress on human rights was vital.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner\’s National League for Democracy (NLD) said in a statement that the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar was "a critical requirement" for an end to the punitive measures.

"As the major causes of sanctions are violation of human rights and lack of democratic practices, it is by dealing effectively with these issues that the removal of sanctions can best be effected," it said.

The party called for discussion with the United States, the European Union and other nations "with a view to reaching agreement on when, how and under what circumstances sanctions might be modified in the interests of democracy, human rights and a healthy economic environment".

Suu Kyi\’s release from house arrest in November after Myanmar\’s first election in 20 years has reignited debate over the effectiveness of the measures, enforced notably by the United States and the EU in response to the junta\’s human rights abuses.

Critics of the policy say sanctions, which have largely kept Western companies out of a resource-rich corner of Asia, are hindering development in what is one of the world\’s poorest nations.

Two pro-democracy parties which took part in the November polls — in which the military\’s political proxies claimed a huge win — have called for an end to sanctions on the grounds that they do not benefit the wider population.

But Suu Kyi\’s party said in the statement that available evidence "indicates economic conditions within the country have not been affected by sanctions to any notable degree".

It called for a study by experts on the effect of the measures.

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"The NLD considers that in the meantime the economic hardships of the people would be ameliorated if businesses that have already invested, or are thinking or investing, in Burma were to observe guidelines aimed at conserving the ecological environment, protesting the rights of workers and prompting civil society," it added.

The United States bans trade with companies tied to the junta in Myanmar and also freezes such firms\’ assets and blocks international loans to the state.

The European Union also has sanctions freezing assets and businesses of junta figures as well as blacklisting their travel, but it has continued some trade and investment such as in the oil sector.

Despite the restrictions on Western businesses, Asian companies, especially from China, India, Thailand and South Korea, have overlooked the political situation and human rights abuses to invest in resource-rich Myanmar.

The NLD won a 1990 election in a landslide but the result was never recognised by the regime.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest in November after spending 15 of the past 21 years in detention.

Her party has no voice in a newly opened parliament dominated by the military and its proxies. It was disbanded for opting to boycott the November vote because the rules seemed designed to bar Suu Kyi from participating.


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