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E.U. Ends Burma Sanctions: Labor Advocates “Deeply Disturbed”

European Union (EU) foreign ministers permanently lifted trade and economic sanctions against Burma (Myanmar). The sanctions were temporarily lifted in 2012, as Burma began a political reform program.

Labor rights groups, however, were not happy about the decision.  The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) called it “An abdication of responsibility.”

In a statement issued by the EU, the sanctions were ended, “In response to the changes that have taken place and in the expectation that they will continue, the Council (of ministers) has decided to loft all sanctions with the exception of the embargo of arms.”

Lotte Leicht of Human Rights Watch also criticized the EU’s move. “The EU’s scrapping of targeted sanctions on Burma is premature and recklessly imperils human-rights gains made so far.”

The CCC’s Dominique Muller, of the group’s International Secretariat, said, “It is deeply upsetting to see the EU pit aside the need for due diligence in line with the UN’s Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business in favor of rewarding what even they consider to be unmet promises.”

The CCC claims the Burmese state has failed to meet many of the EU’s standards.

Burmese working conditions including health and safety standards, are poor, said the CCC.  Also prevalent are physical and verbal abuse of workers, low wages, long hours and religious and ethic discrimination, according to the CCC.

Despite the lifting of sanctions, “The work of the EU in Burma is not remotely finished,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “It is important to continue working on improving human rights, on improving the humanitarian situation, in helping the Burmese to address issues of ethnic violence, particularly attacks on Muslim communities.”

But, Hague also said that Burma has made enough serious progress to make the temporary end of sanctions permanent.