(Edited from AP) Southeast Asian leaders called Wednesday for Western countries, including the European Union, to immediately lift punitive sanctions imposed on Myanmar now that the once-pariah nation has embraced democratic reforms.

(Edited from AP) Southeast Asian leaders called Wednesday for Western countries, including the European Union, to immediately lift punitive sanctions imposed on Myanmar now that the once-pariah nation has embraced democratic reforms.

The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations made the call after concluding an annual summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Myanmar was represented at the gathering by President Thein Sein, who received a flurry of praise for the recent reforms in his poor Southeast Asian nation, most recently Sunday’s by-elections won by pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the appeal for sanctions to be lifted would first be relayed to the EU, which punished formerly military-ruled Myanmar for massive human rights violations.

“We called for the lifting of all sanctions on Myanmar immediately in order to contribute positively to the democratic process and economic development in that country,” the heads of state said in a statement, promising to help when Myanmar assumes ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship in 2014.

During the two-day summit, Thein Sein reported to the other leaders that the elections saw a huge turnout of voters and were held peacefully, drawing praise from his counterparts, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

Myanmar’s government, basking in newfound confidence, invited all of ASEAN’s foreign ministers to visit the country’s capital city of Naypyitaw as a group, possibly in the next few months, diplomats said.

Until recently, Myanmar was the black sheep of ASEAN, with other member countries repeatedly reprimanding it for its failure to move forward on a promised roadmap to democracy, including the freeing of Suu Kyi from years of house arrest.

“This is a tremendous change in the dynamics nowadays,” Natalegawa said. “Normally the Myanmar issue is discussed as a problem but now it’s seen as very much different.”

Natalegawa said ASEAN foreign ministers would relay their appeal for the sanctions’ lifting when they meet their EU counterparts in the near future.

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