ASEAN urges lifting of sanctions on Myanmar

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LOMBOK ISLAND, Indonesia (AP) — Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations appealed Sunday for the lifting of international sanctions against Myanmar, which held its first elections in two decades in November.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said ASEAN will also push for reconciliation between Myanmar’s military-controlled government and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from years of house arrest days after the elections.

“We have the same view on the immediate or early removal or easing of sanctions imposed by some countries against Myanmar,” Natalegawa said on the sidelines of a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on the resort island of Lombok.

Natalegawa said the international community should respond positively to the recent developments in Myanmar to ensure that economic development can take place in the country.

He said, however, that ASEAN has been telling Myanmar directly that it should follow up the elections and release of Suu Kyi with a reconciliation process by including her in the political system.

“All groups in the society must be part of change in Myanmar, including Aung San Suu Kyi,” Natalegawa said.

Suu Kyi was released after the vote from seven years of detention. Her National League for Democracy party said the elections were a sham and did not take part, and was disbanded by the government as a result.

The U.S. and some other Western nations have imposed political and economic sanctions to punish Myanmar’s junta for its poor human rights record and slow move toward democracy.

ASEAN has voiced criticism of Myanmar in the past and acknowledged it remains a burden and roadblock to regional progress.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It admitted Myanmar in 1997 despite strong opposition from Western nations.

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