Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Suu Kyi campaigns for Burma polls as US eases sanctions

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is travelling outside her home town for the first time as a registered candidate for elections.

Ms Suu Kyi is visiting the Irrawaddy Delta, an area she last visited two decades ago.
On Monday, her candidacy for 1 April by-elections was formally accepted. 

Meanwhile, the US has eased one of the sanctions it levels against Burma, in what it said was a response to ongoing reforms. 

The partial waiver, signed on Monday, will allow Burma to receive limited technical assistance from international financial institutions.

April polls
On Tuesday, crowds of cheering supporters greeted Ms Suu Kyi as she campaigned in the region devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. 

In a speech punctuated by jokes, Ms Suu Kyi told a huge crowd gathered on a football pitch in the main town that she was confident Burma would move forward. 

Her party's election campaign, she said, would be focused on the rule of law, development and national reconciliation. 

The Nobel Peace laureate, who spent years under house arrest, is standing for parliament in the rural township of Kawhmu, southwest of Rangoon. 

According to UN Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, the polls will be a key test of the military-backed government's commitment to reform. Mr Quintana was in Burma for a six-day mission last week.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted the elections in November 2010 that saw a military junta replaced with a nominally civilian government backed by the armed forces. 

Since then, the new administration has embarked down a road of reform, leading the NLD to rejoin the political process. Western nations have said that they will match progress on reform with movement on sanctions. 

According to the US State Department, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Monday signed a partial waiver of restrictions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act "in response to encouraging reforms under way" in Burma. 

This would allow institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to conduct assessment missions in the country.

Other US sanctions against Burma, however, remain in place.