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US BANS NEW INVESTMENTS IN BURMA
- Subject: US BANS NEW INVESTMENTS IN BURMA
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 21:43:00
Tuesday April 22 7:13 PM EDT
U.S. Bans New Investments in Burma
WASHINGTON (Reuter) - President Clinton announced fresh sanctions on Burma
banning new investments by U.S. citizens to retaliate for what he said was
deepening repression by
the military leaders in Rangoon.
"I have taken this step in response to a continuing pattern of repression by
the State Law and Order
Restoration Council in Burma," Clinton said in a statement, referring to the
Southeast Asian state's
U.S. officials said the move did not affect existing investments.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the president would shortly issue
an executive order
under authority given him by Congress last September to stiffen existing
sanctions should he deem
repression had increased.
Details of the provisions, including the effect on foreign-based
subsidiaries of U.S. companies, were
being worked out, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said.
"I think the game is up for Burma. Burma is a bad place for business," he
said. U.S. investment in
Burma totalled about $240 million, mostly in the oil and gas sectors, Burns
He said Washington would try to persuade other states to join it in
isolating Burma: "We will be very
aggressive, obviously, in talking to our Asian and European allies and
partners about this issue and
hope that they may follow suit."
The United States has halted direct financial assistance and blocked much
international aid since the
SLORC took over in 1988. It has also denied U.S. visas to Burmese leaders.
The United States and other Western countries criticize Burma for human
rights abuses and for
failing to recognize the 1990 election victory of the opposition National
League for Democracy
(NLD), led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission last week passed a resolution
about continuing rights violations by the military rulers, including
extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary
executions, deaths in custody, torture, arbitrary arrests and forced child
"Regrettably the Burmese government shows no signs of moderating its
insecure and we believe
ultimately doomed authoritarian policies," Albright told reporters at the
State Department. "This is a
dangerous and disappointing direction."
She said the sanction "will send a message to the military that it will not
attract the investment it
clearly craves unless it begins a genuine dialogue with its own people."
Among repressive actions listed by Burns were the arrest of demonstrators,
the harassment of the
NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi, the closing of most universities in response to
student protests, and
attacks on Burma's Karen minority.
In Burma, a military leader said his government would not be swayed by
sanctions. "It's not a
problem for us," Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, secretary one of the SLORC, told
reporters. He also denied
Western allegations of human rights abuses.
Roger Beach, chairman of the oil and gas company Unocal Corp. -- the largest
U.S. investor in
Burma -- said the sanctions were counterproductive but they would not impact
in the region.
"We are terribly disappointed because we feel that engaging in other
infrastructure projects for
Myanmar (Burma) at this time would be very beneficial to the development of
the economy of
Myanmar," Beach said during a visit to Bangkok.
Two U.S. Senators who have strongly criticized Burma's leaders, Kentucky
McConnell and New York Democrat Daniel Moynihan, welcomed the
administration's action but
said it did not go far enough.
"It's a step in the right direction," McConnell said. He said he would offer
a bill to bar existing U.S.
investment and urged American firms in business there to leave.
Moynihan said in a statement: "Strong bilateral pressure needs to be
supplemented with mulitlateral
action. I call on other nations which share our concerns ... to join us."
Albright said there was no contradiction between the tough U.S. line on
Burma and its reluctance to
impose sanctions on China, which it also accuses of human rights abuses.
"We have to have a flexible approach to how we deal with it, depending on
where our national
interests are," she said. "I guess the easiest way to describe it is,
different strokes for different folks."