- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation to extend some sanctions on Myanmar by another year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill, which he sponsored, would not overturn the Obama administration’s decision in July to ease investment and financial sanctions on Myanmar.

The bill, which the House also approved, would give the administration the authority to waive import sanctions should it determine that the Myanmar government has met certain conditions. The legislation now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.

“Before deciding whether to waive import sanctions, I would strongly urge the administration not only to consider the changes occurring within Burma, but also to consult closely with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

The Southeast Asian nation Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, a democracy advocate who spent the better part of two decades detained by Myanmar’s military junta, was elected to parliament in April.

The Obama administration has taken several steps to reward Myanmarese President Thein Sein and his government for following through on recent commitments to democratic change.

For the first time in two decades, the U.S. this year sent an ambassador, Derek Mitchell, to Myanmar.

The Obama administration also has mostly waived an investment ban and financial restrictions, paving the way for U.S. businesses to invest in Myanmar.

“President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma continue to make significant progress along the path to democracy, and the government has continued to make important economic and political reforms,” Mr. Obama said last month in announcing the easing of the restrictions.

The Obama administration, however, wants Myanmar to do more to implement political and economic reforms, and is worried about the protection of human rights, government corruption, and the role of the military in Myanmar’s economy.

Mr. McConnell, who sponsored the “Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act,” which passed Thursday, said he wants to see investment in a “new” Myanmar.

“I want to see Burmese reformers empowered accordingly, and I want to see greater economic development come to this underdeveloped country,” he said. “And, frankly, during challenging economic times here at home, I want American businesses to be able to compete in Burma now that sanctions have been removed by other Western governments.”