NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Myanmar has made remarkable progress but there are many challenges ahead for the Asian country, European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said.
"The development taking place in Myanmar is unprecedented and to needs to be acknowledged," he said in a statement Thursday. "But we must not forget about the challenges ahead, for which the European Union, as one of the main donors, will stand by with further support to continue the necessary reforms in the country."
Piebalgs is in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, participating in the first-ever bilateral task force aimed at encouraging national development. Piebalgs said support for education, peace building and rural development in Myanmar could reach $120 million per year.
International human rights groups have expressed concern about opening up to Myanmar. They say economic sanctions placed on the former junta were what encouraged Myanmar to reform in the first place.
Bart Vermeiren, deputy director of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Myanmar, said lingering religious tensions in Rakhine state is contributing to a humanitarian crisis.
"Livelihoods have been severely damaged, and access to clean water and healthcare has been significantly reduced," he said in a separate statement Thursday.
Myanmar earned international praise for holding general elections in 2010. National security issues, however, have overshadowed some of its political reforms.