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Presure mounts on Washington to ban

Subject:       Presure mounts on Washington to ban new investments in Burma

Pressure mounts on Washington to ban new
investments in Burma
Washington, April 20: With the administration of US
President Bill Clinton apparently unwilling to take
action, pressure is once again building in the US
Congress and in state and local governments around the
country to impose a ban on new US investments in Burma.
The powerful chairman of the senate foreign operations
subcommittee, Republican Sen. Mr Mitch Mcconnell,
indicated here on Wednesday that he will submit new
legislation to impose an immediate ban soon. Sides on
capitol hill said they expected the bill to be ready
within the next week the bill to be ready within the
next week the bill to be ready within the next week and
predicted that it would sail through an impatient
Congress, unless the situation in Burma suddenly
improves. Proponents of such a ban say their cause has
been bolstered in recent days by several events. On
Tuesday, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed its
strongest ever resolution on Burma, noting its deep
concern at continuing restrictions and abuses levelled
against Burma's nobel peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi,
and members of her party by the military government,
the State Law and Order Restoration Council. The
commission also condemned the practice of forced labour
and "recent attacks on ethnic nationalities resulting
in death, destruction and displacement, and called on
the Slorc to cooperate fully with the special
rapporteur on Burma, who has not been permitted to
visit the country for over a year. Ban supporters have
also been heartened by US secretary of state Madeleine
Albright's explicit warning in a speech on Monday to
the US Naval Academy Noting that the Slorc has
increased its restrictions and harassment on Ms Suu Kyi
and her supporters, Ms Albright said, "Burmese leaders
are on notice that, unless the clouds of repression are
lifted, they will face investment sanctions under US
law." The message was delivered to the administration
by Mr Mcconnell during Wednesday's hearing. "Since July
10, 1995, the administration has told me that our
policy, towards Burma, has been under review," he told
a state department witness, "Even on the slowest
learning curve, 654 days is a long, long review
period," he added. July 10, 1995, was the date that Ms
Suu Kyi, whose party swept elections in 1990, was
released from five years of house arrest. At stake is a
law approved by Congress last July which requires a ban
on new US investments in Burma if Mr Clinton determines
that the Slorc has harmed Ms Suu Kyi or has engaged in
"large-scale repression" of its democratic opposition."
The same law also gave Mr Clinton the power, which he
has since invoked, to deny visas to Slorc members their
families and key supporters. Ban supporters say that
general round-ups of members of Ms Suu Kyi's national
league for Democracy Party, as well as continued
restrictions on Ms Suu Kyi's movements, meet the
conditions set out in the 1996 law for imposing the
investment ban. They point to a February report by
Amnesty International which found that, with 2,000
political arrests, 1996 was the most repressive year
since 1988" when hundreds of people were killed during
and after a military coup d"etat. In a video-tape
smuggled out of Burma this month, Ms Suu Kyi also
declared that her supporters were facing increased
persecution. Indeed, the state department, in its
annual human rights report on Burma conceded that the
Slorc's repression worsened in 1996.(IPS)