A US lawmaker who has drafted sanctions against Burma said Sunday that it was premature to ease pressure despite by-elections forecast to see Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi enter parliament.
Representative Joe Crowley, a member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party from New York, saluted the “incredible perseverance and courage” of Aung San Suu Kyi but said it was “important to keep things in perspective.”
“Far too many political prisoners are still locked behind bars, violence continues against ethnic minorities and the military dominates not only the composition but the structure of the government,” he said.
“Now is not the time for the international community to rush toward lifting pressure on Burma,” said Crowley, referring to Myanmar by its former name.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been seeking to encourage reforms in Burma.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Istanbul, said the United States was “committed to supporting these reform efforts.”
But most of the two decades of sanctions on Burma are under the purview of the Congress, which has long shown sympathy to Burma’s dissidents. Some other lawmakers, however, have been open to discussing easing some sanctions.
Suu Kyi, who spent most of the past 22 years under house arrest, is set to enter parliament for the first time after the opposition claimed victory.
The by-elections were the latest reform effort by President Thein Sein, a nominal civilian leader whose government has surprised even many critics by freeing hundreds of prisoners and seeking cease-fires with ethnic rebels.
Aung Din, a former political prisoner and executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, said that Western nations should wait to see how Suu Kyi and other supporters of her National League for Democracy are treated in parliament.
“The United States and EU should not reward the regime simply because the NLD has some seats in the parliament,” he said.