Phnom Penh (Cambodia): Asian leaders on Tuesday
called for Western sanctions against Myanmar to be lifted
after its historic polls, as they held summit talks also
dominated by North Korea and maritime disputes with China.
The call came amid international praise for Myanmar`s
by-elections on Sunday which gave democracy leader Aung San
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and former political prisoner, a
seat in parliament for the first time.
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) "call for the lifting of all sanctions on Myanmar",
Cambodian Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn told reporters on
the sidelines of the bloc`s summit in Phnom Penh.
"The lifting of sanctions would contribute positively to
the democratic process and especially economic development of
Myanmar," he said, quoting leaders inside the meeting room.
Myanmar President Thein Sein told reporters the polls were
"held successfully", in his first public remarks on the vote.
Diplomats said the former general, who has overseen a
series of dramatic reforms since taking office a year ago,
told his counterparts that he accepted the result, which saw
Suu Kyi`s party win 43 of the 44 seats it contested.
Election monitors from Cambodia, which holds ASEAN`s chair
in 2012, have declared the polls free and fair, and said
sanctions imposed over the Myanmar military`s long record of
rights abuses should be lifted.
ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said he
expected the leaders to issue a formal statement tomorrow
"calling for immediate lifting of the sanctions".
Asked if sanctions should be lifted, Indonesian Foreign
Minister Marty Natalegawa said: "Absolutely, yes. If not now,
The by-elections are the latest sign that Myanmar`s
military is genuine about loosening its grip on power after
four decades of brutal rule which made the country a
diplomatic pariah and economic backwater.
Over the past 12 months the country`s quasi-civilian
government has freed hundreds of political prisoners, eased
media restrictions and welcomed the opposition back into
At the last ASEAN summit in November, Myanmar was rewarded
for its reforms by being promised the bloc`s chairmanship in
2014. It is also eager to win greater foreign investment with
the prospect of sanctions being lifted.
The easing of most US sanctions would require approval in
Congress, where lawmakers have welcomed changes in Myanmar but
also urged caution as they seek progress on more fronts
including resolving ethnic violence.