EU scolded for lifting Myanmar sanctions

April 23, 2013 at 10:45 AM

BRUSSELS, April 23 (UPI) -- The EU decision to lift sanctions on Myanmar removed one of the mechanisms encouraging reforms, Human Rights Watch said.

The European Union announced Monday it was lifting travel bans and economic sanctions on Myanmar, known also as Burma. It left in place a ban on weapons exports, however.

The European Union said it was responding to "remarkable" progress on political reform that began in Myanmar with general elections in 2010.

"It welcomes the developments toward democracy, a strong Parliament, freedom of expression, and the government's efforts against corruption, as well as the efforts towards the release of remaining political prisoners," an EU statement read.

Director of EU programs at Human Rights Watch Lotte Leicht said lifting sanctions removes the pressure that encouraged reforms in the first place.

"EU member states are ditching measures that have motivated the current progress and gambling on the good will of Burma's government and military to keep their word to keep reforms on track," she said in a statement from Brussels.

The rights group Monday published a report alleging the government was complicit in Buddhist attacks on the minority Muslim community.

Myanmar President Thein Sein was awarded Monday by the International Crisis Group for his reform initiatives.

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