JAKARTA, April 11 (BSS/AFP) - Myanmar is unlikely to backtrack on reforms and the West should lift sanctions "without delay" to help the process, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report today.
"Myanmar has turned away from five decades of authoritarianism and has embarked on a bold process of political, social and economic reform," the ICG said in "Reform in Myanmar: One Year On," released in Jakarta and Brussels.
"Those in the West who have long called for such changes must now do all they can to support them. The most important step is to lift the sanctions on Myanmar without delay," it said.
Noting the April 23 European Union meeting on whether to renew sanctions, the ICG said "the value of the coercive measures must be reconsidered."
Since the end of direct military rule last year, the new
regime has surprised even critics with a slew of reforms
including welcoming the opposition back into mainstream politics,
signing ceasefire deals with ethnic minority rebels and releasing
hundreds of political prisoners.
ICG Southeast Asia project director Jim Della-Giacoma said
observers have questioned whether the speedy reforms will be
"The broad consensus among the political elite on the need
for fundamental change means that the risk of a reversal appears
low," he said. Last week, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy won a historic victory in by-
elections, seen as the culmination of burgeoning reforms by the
British Prime Minister David Cameron is due in Myanmar this
week on the first visit by a top Western leader since decades of
military rule ended last year, Myanmar officials said.
The EU is considering "substantially" easing sanctions
against the impoverished nation, according to a senior diplomat.
Washington announced last week it would ease selected
sanctions, but said measures would remain against those opposed
The ICG said that anything short of a blanket lifting of
sanctions would undermine the country's progress.
In the past year, Myanmar has passed laws that allow public
assembly and workers' strikes, and eased heavy censorship laws on
President Thein Sein's government has also signed peace
deals with rebel groups in an effort to end a civil war that has
gripped parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948.