Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tuesday urged the US and the European Union to lift sanctions on Myanmar, following a historic by-election in the country which saw pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her party registering a landslide win.
The Western countries imposed sanctions on Myanmar after the military regime in the country adopted many anti-democratic steps.
ASEAN foreign ministers, who met in Phnom Penh in Cambodia Tuesday, lauded last Sunday's by-elections as fair and free. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 out of 44 parliament seats in the by-elections and after two decades of her pro-democracy struggle, The Lady will enter the nation's parliament.
Last Sunday's by-elections were widely seen as step towards normalization of country's trade relations with the West, as the US and the European Union had hinted a fair election could encourage them to end the sanctions.
Quoting ASEAN ministers, Cambodian Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn told reporters that The lifting of sanctions would contribute positively to the democratic process and especially economic development of Myanmar.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia also made a similar statement in the summit and said: One thing that we are very much keen on now is to ensure that the sanctions against Myanmar be immediately lifted. It is extremely important as a symbol, a democratic dividend for a country that has begun the process of change, and this process of change must be acknowledged, according to a VOAnews.com report.
The process of change gathered momentum in this South East Asian country after the military junta, which had ruled more than two decades, handed over the power to the current ruling party after a general election in 2010, which allegedly was a rigged one.
Though there wasn't much expectation from the government which consisted of retired government officers when they assumed office, yet it surprised the world by ushering in a sea of pro-democratic changes.
The reforms were dramatic and even the by-elections were another step towards cementing the process of democracy in the country. Though the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party suffered huge losses in the election, yet its leaders said that results indicated a fair election.
Resource rich Myanmar was one of the richest Asian countries a few decades ago. The decade-long military rule and the western sanctions have now turned it into one of the most impoverished countries in ASEAN.
The ASEAN believes that ending sanctions and opening up the economy to the outside world can improve Myanmar's economy. The Western business groups which are eager to explore the new opportunities in the country are also pressuring their governments for early removal of sanctions.