Judith Ireland April 16, 2012
Aung San Suu Kyi greets supporters Photo: AFP
Australia will ease some of its sanctions against Burma - including a travel ban on its president - following the landslide byelection victory by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month.
Speaking from London, Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced Australia will reduce the number of Burmese people subject to travel bans from 392 to 130, to reward democratic progress in the country.
Senator Carr said this removes many of the civilians from the list, including President Thein Sein and government ministers.
"I can announce that we are lifting sanctions considerably," he said. "Serving senior military officers and people of human rights concern will remain on the sanction list for the time being."
Australia has had targeted sanctions against Burma since 2007, which include prohibitions on arms and financial support for military activities, as well as the travel bans.
Senator Carr said that Australia's decision to ease the restrictions was in line with the expectations of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese opposition as well as recent moves by ASEAN and Europe.
"It reflects the very considerable progress that has been made, not just the April 1 byelections, but the release of about 500 political prisoners and the freeing up of labour laws, more media freedom," Senator Carr said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton have indicated their preparedness to relax sanctions and have called on others to do the same.
"There are people watching Burma who say this [democratic transition] is now irreversible," Senator Carr said.
"I think the [Burmese] president is sincere, I think he deserves these rewards. But, of course, it's always possible to resume these sanctions."
New Greens Leader Christine Milne told ABC radio this morning that despite the recent progress, it may be too early to ease the pressure on Burma.
"I'm not sure if that action is a bit premature because I haven't had a chance to talk to some of the activists about what is actually going on in Burma," she said.
"But I certainly concur that progress is being made and I'm delighted to see the success of Aung Sung Su Kyi in the recent elections there."
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the new sanctions list is likely to take effect within a few weeks.