Asean calls for Burma sanctions to be lifted

Performers carry flags of Asean member countries during a ceremony marking its 45th anniversary Image copyright AFP
Image caption Burma has long been the black sheep of the Asean family

Leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), meeting in Cambodia, have called for economic sanctions against Burma to be lifted.

The 10-country group said the move would help Burma achieve "peace, national reconciliation, democracy and national development".

Separately, Burmese President Thein Sein endorsed by-elections on Sunday comprehensively won by the opposition.

The two-day Asean summit is taking place in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Asean has called on the rest of the world to show its faith in the reform process in Burma.

As the current chair of the association, Cambodia said the international community should "consider lifting economic sanctions" in response to the Burmese opposition's strong showing in the weekend's by-elections.

'Successful manner'

The BBC's Guy De Launey in Phnom Penh says the Asean appeal is likely to be received positively in Europe.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Thein Sein said the weekend's elections reflected well on his country

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told the BBC that he expected sanctions to go if the elections were judged to be fair.

Our correspondent says the process will probably take months, rather than weeks, but it would open up the possibility of foreign investment as well as a resumption of trade.

Burma has long been the black sheep of the Asean family, our correspondent says, but it was never cast out.

The other members favoured a light-touch in dealing with the country's military government.

Gentle cajoling was preferred to condemnation or sanctions - much to the chagrin of human rights organisations - he adds.

Meanwhile, Burmese President Thein Sein said on the sidelines of the summit that the elections were conducted in a very successful manner.

The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won at least 40 of the 45 seats that were being contested.

It is now preparing to form a small opposition bloc in parliament.

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