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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        17  May 2011

US renews Myanmar sanctions

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The United States on Monday renewed its economic sanctions against Myanmar and urged the military-backed regime to go much further after it reduced prisoners' terms by just one year.

In a formal notice to Congress, President Barack Obama said that he was renewing sanctions that would otherwise have expired this month because Myanmar, also known as Burma, was taking actions "hostile to US interests."

Obama, using language nearly identical to previous years, criticized actions by the regime including the "large-scale repression of the democratic opposition" in deciding to extend the measures that limit trade with Myanmar.

The Obama administration in 2009 launched an engagement drive with Myanmar, concluding that the previous Western policy of trying to isolate the regime had failed.

But the administration has said that it is disappointed with the results of the dialogue and rejected calls by some Asian nations to ease sanctions on Myanmar after it last year held elections, which were widely criticized.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein, in a message read on state television Monday, said that the government was reducing all prisoners' sentences by one year and commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment.

The United States and democracy activists have called for a broader amnesty in Myanmar, where many political opponents are held under vague laws for double-digit terms.

"We would just reiterate our call that all political prisoners should be released immediately," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

The regime last year released Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last two decades under house arrest.

But human rights groups say more than 2,000 other political prisoners remain.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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