Obama extends Myanmar emergency

May 3, 2013 at 2:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Fighting and human rights abuses in Myanmar means the country continues to pose a threat to U.S. interests, U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Myanmar embarked on a series of democratic reforms that began with general elections in 2010. It's since earned praise from the international community. Myanmar President Thein Sein was praised recently by the International Crisis Group for political reforms.

The U.S. government eased financial restrictions on Myanmar, a country known formerly as Burma, in recognition of reforms. The European Union followed suit earlier this year.

Some human rights groups expressed frustration with those decisions, saying it was those sanctions that encouraged many for the reforms in the first place.

Obama issued an executive order extending national emergency in regards to Myanmar for another year. The order was first issued in 1997. He said the government has made "significant progress" in some areas related to political openness and national security, though there were lingering causes for concern.

"The political opening is nascent, and concerns persist regarding remaining political prisoners, ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas," he said in a statement.

Religious violence in Myanmar since 2012 left nearly 200 people dead and displaced an estimated 127,000 people. The government established a committee to examine the violence, though Amnesty International said that can't be a replacement for justice.

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