The NLD will release a report about the effect of sanctions on Myanmar [AFP]

The party of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has urged the West to maintain sanctions on the country, saying the embargo affected the military more than the general population.

"We came to find that the sanctions affect only the leaders of the ruling regime and their close business associates, not the majority of the people," Tin Oo, National League for Democracy (NLD) vice-chairman, told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

The announcement by the NLD, Myanmar's biggest opposition force, could be a blow to both the junta and Western investors keen to tap the isolated country's vast natural resources, Reuters reported.

Tin Oo declined to elaborate but said a report by the NLD would be released later on Monday, based on its own research and consultation with economists.

Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest on in November, had backed the sanctions as part of her fight against decades of iron-fisted rule in the country.

In the initial public statements following her release, Suu Kyi announced that she may support the lifting of sanctions against the country. At the time, this was seen as a dramatic change in her political stance.

Many analysts have said that sanctions failed to bring about any reforms and simply pushed the Myanmar generals and their business allies closer to neighbours China and Thailand, which are investing heavily in the country's vast energy reserves.

They argued the sanctions, which range from bans on arms deals and new investments in Myanmar to travel restrictions on regime officials and the freezing of offshore bank accounts, were damaging to the economy and hurt the Burmese people.

While Myanmar's top generals enjoy lavish lifestyles and cash in on trade with Asian nations that do not impose sanctions, the embargoes have hampered their efforts to buy new weapons technology for its large military.

The army has held power in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for decades. General elections were held in November, that allies of the military rulers won. Western observers criticised the polls, saying it was a "sham" that sought to legitimise army rule.

Suu Kyi's  NLD won the last elections in 1990 but was blocked from taking power by the military.

Source: Agencies