In the wake of similar decisions by the United States, the European Union and Great Britain, Australia said it will ease some of its sanctions against Myanmar following historic elections in the Asian country which brought pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament for the first time.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has enacted a series of political reforms since the emergence of a nominally civilian government headed by President Thein Sein last year.
Australia’s foreign minister Bob Carr -- speaking in London where he is meeting with his UK counterpart William Hague -- said Canberra will cut the number of Burmese people subject to a travel ban to 130 from 392 – this will lift travel bans on President Sein and several government ministers, among others.
I can announce that we are lifting sanctions considerably, Carr said.
It reflects the very considerable progress that has been made, not just the April 1 by-elections, but the release of about 500 political prisoners and the freeing up of labor laws [and] more media freedom.”
The revised sanctions are likely to become effective in a few weeks, according to Australian media.
But Carr added that: Serving senior military officers and people of human rights concern will remain on the sanction list for the time being.
Since 2007, Australia has banned the sale of arms to Burma, or any kind of financial support for its military.
There are people watching Burma who say this [democratic transition] is now irreversible, Carr said, echoing recent comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
I think the [Burmese] president is sincere, I think he deserves these rewards. But, of course, it's always possible to resume these sanctions.
Agence France Presse reported that Carr had spoken with Suu Kyi herself.
However, not everyone in Australia is entirely pleased with the relaxed sanctions.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Christine Milne, the leader of Australia’s “New Greens” party, told ABC Radio: 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. 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.