Lost? Burma is just west of China, bordered to the west by the Bay of Bengal.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s win in the April 1st by-elections marked a significant step in Burma’s path towards political reform. Days after the elections, Western nations lifted sanctions placed on Burma over the past decades but attacks on civilians continue in minority ethnic areas.
The Obama administration has taken steps to normalize relations with the Burmese government by appointing Derek Mitchell as the U.S. Ambassador to Burma, lifting a travel ban on some of the country’s senior leaders and easing sanctions on American investments. The U.S. Congress passed legislation renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA) to extend import sanctions on Burma for another year. Ongoing human rights abuses, particularly in ethnic areas means that the Administration should not waive the renewal of BFDA as it allows the U.S. government to keep some pressure to spur deeper reforms.
Burma has long been a global pariah for its suppression of human rights. Since taking control of the country in 1962, the Burmese military government has waged counter-insurgency campaigns against ethnic minorities in Kachin, Shan, Karen, Kayah, and Mon States leading to widespread civilian deaths over the past year. In targeting these populations, the government has committed thousands of documented cases of summary executions, torture, rape, forced labor, forced relocation and burning down churches, schools and entire villages.