One of the Senate’s leading voices on Myanmar, or Burma, says he will not pursue a renewal of economic sanctions against the country.
Congress has reauthorized sanctions against the Asian country on an annual basis, citing the human rights record of a repressive military junta that had governed the country. More recently, the country has held elections and taken a number of actions to increase freedoms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that after conversations with the White House, he won’t seek to extend the sanctions for another year.
“I was the author of the Burma Sanctions Bill some 10 years ago, which we have renewed on an annual basis. I will not be making an effort to renew those sanctions this year based upon consultation with the State Department,” McConnell told reporters. “We think enough progress has been made in Burma to where implementation of the sanctions this year is actually not a good idea. So that’s an indication of the progress that they have made.”
McConnell and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein have long been the Senate’s most active members on Burma policy, an effort that predates their respective rises to Republican leader and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee.
McConnell has traveled to Burma and met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She even visited the University of Louisville during a trip to the United States in 2012 to speak at an event hosted by the GOP leader’s namesake McConnell Center. And she received a Congressional Gold Medal during that same trip.
McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met Tuesday with Burmese President Thein Sein, a former general. During an interview that aired Monday on CNN, the Burmese leader was asked about releasing remaining political prisoners.
“The concept of releasing political prisoners in our country is carried out because we want to ensure that the political process is inclusive, where all people of Myanmar can participate in the political process. Therefore, that is the main reason we are releasing political prisoners,” he said. “We also have formed a committee for scrutinizing the remaining political prisoners. But some of the prisoners that we still detain are there because they’ve committed crimes such as murder or rape. But they will be released, based on the recommendations of this committee.”