Sanctions imposed on Myanmar have no moral basis and create an obstacle to development and economic growth, the South East Asian country’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly today as he called for an end to the measures.
“As sanctions are indiscriminate and of themselves a form of violence, they cannot legitimately be regarded as a tool to promote human rights and democracy,” Prime Minister Thein Sein said in his address to the Assembly’s annual General Debate at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
“Sanctions are being employed as a political tool against Myanmar and we consider them unjust,” Mr. Sein said. “I would like to state that such acts must be stopped.”
The Prime Minister stressed Myanmar’s improved socio-economic standing in recent years, saying that without the economic sanctions progress would accelerate at a greater pace.
In a meeting with Myanmar’s Prime Minister later in the morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made it clear that the onus was on the Government to create the conditions for credible and inclusive elections next year, according to a statement attributable to his spokesperson.
The Secretary-General stressed the importance of releasing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – the pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate who has spent a large part of the last 18 years in detention – and all other political prisoners to ensure a free and fair ballot.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe also told journalists today that there was agreement at last week’s meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar – attended by 14 foreign ministers – that pressure must be applied on the Government to release Ms. Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
He said that participants in the Group of Friends meeting, which was hosted by Mr. Ban, seemed to indicate that “sanctions as sanctions” would not work, but had to be balanced by positive outreach.
In his address to the Assembly, Mr. Sein said “the transition to democracy is proceeding. Our focus is not on the narrow interest of individuals, organizations or parties but on the larger interest of the entire people of the nation.”
Peace and stability in the country and the successful holding of the democratic elections are essentials for the democratization process of Myanmar, he noted, stating that a “new State constitution was approved by 92.48 per cent of the eligible voters in a nationwide referendum held in May 2008.”
Multiparty general elections will be held in 2010, and in accordance with the new Constitution the parliament will be convened and a government will be formed along the lines of a presidential system, he added.
Mr. Sein said that the aspirations of the people will be fulfilled by all citizens participating in the democratic process – “whether they agree with us or not.
“Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and a system suitable for Myanmar can only be born out of Myanmar society. Citizens of Myanmar are the ones who can best determine their future. They can judge the merits of democracy and make adjustments in accordance with their genius.”
Mr. Sein also spotlighted the shortfall in funding for the country’s recovery effort in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which killed almost 130,000 people and devastated much of Myanmar in May 2008.
The Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) has outlined rehabilitation projects for 2009 to 2011, along with further plans to effectively respond to similar natural disasters in the future, he said.
“PONREPP will require $691 million over a period of three years,” said Mr. Sein. “To date, only half of that amount has been committed by the international community.”