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New England Burma Roundtable: April

Subject: New England Burma Roundtable: April Meeting


Connecticut Burma Bill Reported Out of Key Committee!

April 3, 1997


1. April Burma Roundtable
2. Connecticut Burma Bill Reported Out of Committee
3. April Action Alert!..................Write Your Senators!


4. Sample Letter to Your Senators
5. Suggestions For Your Letter to Governor Weld
6. Hartford Courant Article on Connecticut Burma Bill Hearing

1. April Burma Roundtable

The next Roundtable is at 7pm on Tuesday, April 8.  The meeting will take
place at the office of Franklin Research & Development at 711 Atlantic
Avenue in Boston, just across the street from South Station.

Our Roundtable speaker this month is Katharine Redford of Earthrights
International. Ms. Redford is one of several lawyers working on a lawsuit
against Unocal and Total, the oil companies building a gas pipeline through
lands in Burma inhabited by the Karen and the Mon, two indigenous ethnic
minorities. Earthrights International is based on the Thai-Burma border and
employs human rights investigators who have documented the shocking human
rights abuses connected to the pipeline project. 

The May 13 Roundtable will feature Shalini Nataraj, Asia Associate of the
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. She will talk about her recent
trip to the Thai-Burma border.  Reserve the date now!

2. Connecticut Burma Bill Reported Out of Committee

On March 27, the Government, Administration and Elections Committee of the
Connecticut legislature favorably reported out HB 6354, Rep. Jessie
Stratton's Burma selective purchasing bill. The Stratton Burma bill is
almost identical to the Massachusetts Burma law and would effectively bar
Connecticut purchasing managers from buying goods or services from companies
doing business in Burma.  The bill will now go to the Connecticut House for
a floor vote.

3. April Action Alert!..................Write Your Senators!

This month's action is to write our US Senators. Several US Senators -
including the New England Senators Kennedy (D, MA) and Leahy (D, VT) - have
already written President Clinton urging him to impose the ban on new
investment in Burma outlined in the Cohen-Feinstein amendment. Let's make
sure all the others wrote the President too.

In addition, if you have not yet done so, please write Governor Weld to urge
him to stand in firm support of the Massachusetts Burma law in the face of
pressure from the European Commission and the Japanese government. A sample
letter is enclosed.
Simon Billenness
Franklin Research & Development, 711 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02111
423 6655 x 225


4. Sample Letter to Your Senators

U.S. Senator __________
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Senator _________, 

As your constituent from __________, I am writing to contact you about an
urgent foreign policy issue that I feel strongly about.   This issue is the
deteriorating human rights situation in Burma, where the Burmese democracy
movement led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is under greater pressure
than ever before.  Amnesty International recently announced that 1996 was the
worst year in a decade for human rights in Burma, Suu Kyi remains under de
facto house arrest by the military junta, SLORC, and thousands of political
prisoners languish in the jails. 

[Add a paragraph here describing yourself, your history in the local

I believe that the conditions of the Cohen-Feinstein Amendment passed into
law last year, which would ban new investment in Burma by U.S. companies,
have been met. Therefore, I strongly urge you to support the immediate
implementation of this Amendment by President Clinton.   Aung San Suu Kyi and
the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) that she leads have repeatedly
and publicly called for such sanctions to be imposed by the U.S. and the
international community.  Unlike other countries in the region ruled by
dictatorial regimes, Burma held a free and fair election in 1990 in which the
NLD won 392 out of 485 Parliamentary seats and then were prevented by the
SLORC from taking power.   That electoral legitimacy makes the situation in
Burma unique and particularly compelling.   Since the NLD is composed of the
legitimate leaders of Burma, I believe that we should their call should be
heeded by America, the world's most influential democracy.  

As you may know, the matter of implementing Cohen-Feinstein is under
consideration by top levels in the Administration.   Time is of the essence
to weigh in on this issue.  I strongly urge you to write to the President and
the Secretary of State to urge them to follow the letter of this US law, and
immediately implement the Cohen-Feinstein sanctions against Burma. In the
past month, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the
Washington Post have publicly called on the Clinton Administration to
implement Cohen-Feinstein.

This paragraph below is for letters to Senator John Kerry (D, MA) only:  

[Senator Kerry, in July, you joined with Senator Kennedy in voting in favor
of amendment brought by Senators McConnell and Moynihan that would have
banned US investment in Burma. Senator Kennedy is one of several senators
who have already written President Clinton urging him to implement the
Cohen-Feinstein sanctions.  Your letter would support the efforts of Senator
Kennedy on this issue and would also be consistent with your previous vote
in favor of immediate economic sanctions on Burma.]

As your constitutent, I look forward to hearing from you on this matter very

5. Suggestions For Your Letter to Governor Weld

*  Open your letter by thanking the Governor for signing the law last June.
Specifically request that Governor Weld defend the Massachusetts Burma law
in the face of pressure from the Japanese government and the European Commission

*  Describe your interest in Burma and mention your deep roots in Massachusetts

*  The political situation in Burma remains very grave. The military junta
has imprisoned over 100 members of the National League for Democracy and
prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from meeting with democracy movement supporters

* Mention that Massachusetts is not alone. Over ten other US cities and
counties have enacted similar laws. A similar bill has been introduced in
Connecticut. California and Vermont are expected to follow suit shortly. 

* Mention that if Massachusetts had not stood up to similar pressure after
enacting its South Africa law, Nelson Mandela might still be in prison today

* Remind him that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Burmese democracy
movement has called for economic sanctions and expressed her support for the
Massachusetts Burma law

Governor William Weld
State House
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02133-1053
(617) 727-3600
(617) 727-9731 - fax
(617) 727-9725 - fax

6. Hartford Courant Article on Connecticut Burma Bill Hearing

Legislators urged to punish companies doing business in Burma

Maxine Bernstein, The Hartford Courant, 25 March 97, pA10

Republican state Rep. Ronald San Angelo's constituents in Naugatuck would
probably be surprised to learn that their representative was deep into a
debate Monday about, of al lthings, Burma, rather than property tax relief
or the state income tax.

Even San Angelo was a bit perplexed.

"To be totally honest with you, I don't know a heck of a lot about Burma,"
San Angelo said during a legislative hearing on a topic that took lawmakers
far beyond the state's borders.

The documentation of human rights abuses, forced labor and the production
of heroin under Burma's repressive military regime has prompted some
lawmakers to propose a bill that would bar the state from buying goods or
services from companies that do business in Burma. Their statements stood
in stark contrast to the dry testimony of state government employees who
commented on the governor's data processing privatization plan at the same

"You make us appreciate the freedom that we have in this country," state
Rep. Susan Byslewicz, D-Middletown, told one of the Burmese speakers.

Supporters of the Burma bill say that foreign investment in Burma supports
the brutal military regime in power there. They contend that the bill would
send a message to the military junta that its repressive policies are

But opponents, from the president of United Technologies Corp. to
international trade investment officials, criticize the measure as a
"feel-good" gimmick that could discourage companies from relocating to the
state. Bill critics, largely free-trade advocates, say the state should not
play a role in foreign policy.  "If the United States is going to do
something, it should come from Washington," said Joseph F. Brennan, vice
president of legislative affairs for the Connecticut Business and Industry

"There are human rights violations elsewhere," he said. "Does that mean
there will be similar proposals for China, Indonesia and Northern Ireland?
Where do you draw the line? Foreign policy gets just a little dicey when
you get individual states passing these laws."

San Angelo agrees. "Somehow, I don't think we're foreign affairs advisers
here on the [government administration and elections] committee," he said.

State Rep. Jessie G. Stratton, D-Canton, introduced the bill, and 12
Democrats and one Republican are co-sponsors. If it becomes law,
Connecticut would become the second state in the nation to pass sanctions
against Burma. Massachusetts adoped a similar bill last year.

At a bill-signing ceremony in June, Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld
estimated the Burma restrictions would affect more than $1 million in state
contracts. Connecticut state officials said they did not have a listing of
companies with business ties to Burma.

"One law passed by one state will not end the suffering and oppression of
the people of Burma," Weld, a Republican, said, "but it is my hope that
other states and the Congress will follow our example, and make a stand for
the cause of freedom and democracy around the world."

Bill proponents argue that state actions do have an impact on companies.
Several major companies, such as Apple Computer, Motorola and
Hewlett-Packard, have cited the Massachusetts law in pullling out of Burma.
Backers of the bill also point to pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi,
a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has called for stiff sanctions against
her country's government.

"Political momentum at the grass-roots level builds for action at the
federal level," said Simon Billenness, an analyst with the Boston-based
Franklin Research & Development Corp. who spearheaded the push for the
Massachusetts bill and was in Connecticut Monday.

Bo Hla-Tint, who was elected to Burma's Parliament in 1990, but has not
served because the military refused to recognize the election results, told
lawmakers that foreign investment only strengthens the military regime.

"Investing in Burma today will only prolong military rule," Hla-Tint said.

Some international trade and investment officials disagree. UTC President
George David led a delegation of US companies to Southeast Asia this month
and criticized economic actions that would isolate Burma.

"We feel that the policy of engagement is a better way to produce change.
We're better off having engagement, participation and investments," David
said. David heads the US-ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Business Council, which is expected to accept Burma as a member this year.
UTC has no holdings in Burma.

"What this does is diminish the state's effort to attract new companies to
Connecticut," said Todd M. Malan, executive director of the Organization
for International Investment.

Gov. John G. Rowland and the state Department of Economic and Community
Development have not taken a position on the bill.

Several other Connecticut companies oppose the measure. Bruce Talley,
director of government affairs for ABB Corp., a Swiss engineering company
with offices in Norwalk, is worred about the proliferation of state and
local purchasing laws.

"A lot of these things are done for domestic political consumption," Talley
said. "It's a nice 'feel-good' step, but their ability to affect the
problem in the country where there is a human rights problem is next to nil."