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News from Australia (24/4/97)


The ABC-TV reported in last night program about the US trade sanctions on
Burma and Australia is not joining in (& I'm not going to protest about
it.) The ABC Radio (Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Government
funded station) Southeast Asia programmes (Chinese, Vietnamese and few
others) reported to be falling under the treasurer's cost-cuttings.
Indonesian and Pacific-Island programmes will be saved by the financial
support of Department of Foreign Affairs, it is reported. Therefore, a
Burmese language programme from Australia as requested by DASSK is an
impossibility. While there'll be no new foreign language programme from
ABC is understandable under present situation, cutting-out of existing
programmes to Asia has unfortunately created an impression of Australia
reducing its limited influence on Asia. Still, Australian Government is
not forgetting about our refugees and we are much thankful for such
generous support. 

Recent President Clinton's ban on new investments on Burma, together
with the EU's withdrawal of GSP few weeks earlier, are to be taken as
the hopeful signs of the international community's hardening mood
against the SLORC. While the U.S. investment ban cannot immediately
impose decisive pressure on SLORC, this will certainly shut-up the
arrogant business lobby.

The most pressing issue right now is how we should implement the recent
CHR resolution. The resolution is certainly stronger than that of the last
year. Still, it fall far short of recommending to send the human rights
monitors to Burma. May be we might work through the Special Rapporteur and
Secretary-General to get UNSC attention. It will be crucial that the 7-10
May visit of Secretary-General's representative produce a successful
outcome. If the dialogue is not realized by that time, even the God will
forsake SLORC. -- Regards, U Ne Oo. 


   Foreign Affairs Minister ALEXANDER DOWNER says Australia will
give another $1.8 million to help Burmese refugees.
	   Mr DOWNER's announcement coincides with US President BILL
CLINTON's approval of economic sanctions against Burma over human
rights abuses by the Burmese military government.
	   Mr DOWNER says $1 million will go to the World Food Program and
another $300,000 to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
for the resettlement of Burmese refugees.
	   Another $500,000 will go to the Australian arm of Doctors
Without Borders, a non-government organisation.
	   They're replacing medical supplies and equipment destroyed in an
attack on camps along the Thai border earlier this year.
	   Mr DOWNER says the grants lift total Australian aid to Burmese
refugees since 1991 to $6.6 million.
	   AAP RTV mgl/ab/rt

   By Gene Gibbons of Reuters
   WASHINGTON, April 22 Reuter - President Bill Clinton has 
approved imposing economic sanctions against Burma due to human 
rights abuses by the Burmese military government, an administration 
official said early today.
	   The State Department will announce the sanctions, which will 
involve banning new US investment in Burma, later today, the 
official told Reuters.
	   Clinton approved the sanctions within the past few days, the 
official told Reuters.
	   The official said Clinton decided to go ahead with sanctions 
because Burma's military government had become "increasingly 
repressive lately" and was ignoring international calls for 
progress toward a democratically elected government.
	   The United States and many other Western countries have 
criticised Burma for human rights abuses and for failing to 
recognise the democratically elected government of the opposition 
National League for Democracy, which was co-founded by Nobel Peace 
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
	   Suu Kyi was under house arrest for six years for her criticism 
of the Rangoon government. Clinton can impose sanctions on Burma if 
the democracy leader is arrested again or the situation in Burma 
	   Last week, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is 
expected to announce the ban today, turned up the pressure on 
Burma, criticising its military government for failing to respond 
to appeals to improve human rights.
	   "Burmese leaders are on notice that, unless the clouds of 
repression are lifted, they will face investment sanctions under US 
law," Albright said in a speech to the US Naval Academy in 
Annapolis, Maryland.
	   The 53-member United Nations Human Rights Commission last week 
also passed a resolution voicing concern about continuing rights 
violations by Burma's military rulers, including extrajudicial, 
summary and arbitrary executions, deaths in custody, torture, 
arbitrary arrests and forced child labour.
	   The Burmese government has accused the United States of using 
the threat of economic sanctions against it like a weapon aimed at 
destroying basic rights of the Burmese people.
	   A Burmese spokesman told Reuters that his government was more 
concerned about the situation in Burma than was the United States 
or any other foreign nation.
	   "If the US is so genuinely concerned about the human rights of 
the Myanmar (Burmese) people, why is it so necessary to deprive one 
of the most essential rights of the Myanmar people - the right to 
earn a living and support the family?" he asked.
	   "Does US human rights mean priority of one favoured person or a 
party is above everything else? And does the US really believe that 
installing an overnight Western democracy is the cure for all 
developing, unstable and problem-ridden countries of the world," he 
	   The New York Times reported today that the sanctions would not 
be retroactive, allowing previous contracts to stand.
	   The newspaper said the one large US investment in Burma was a 
billion-dollar energy partnership that Unocal Corp had with 
France's Total SA to explore and develop natural gas fields off the 
Burmese coast.
	   The United States was the fourth-largest investor in Burma, 
after France, Singapore and Thailand, the paper said.
	   REUTER gr

   Japanese foreign ministry officials say Japan won't join United 
States sanctions against Burma, maintaining its softer stance to 
the ruling military regime.
	   Another foreign ministry official says Japan will continue 
providing the country with assistance on a case-by-case basis.
	   But the official says their aid's supposed to serve the Burmese 
people directly.
	   The US has announced a ban on new investment in Burma -- 
blasting the military regime in Rangoon for engineering a state of 
large-scale repression.
	   Japan joined Western nations in 1988 in suspending official aid 
to Burma.
	   However, in March, Japan announced it was extending a grant in 
aid of $A41 million to Burma for debt relief.
	   AFP RTV gr/ab/rt

   The federal government says Australia won't join a United States 
move to impose economic sanctions on Burme over human rights abuses 
by its military regime.
	   A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister ALEXANDER DOWNER says 
Australia's already imposed a number of restrictions on dealings 
with Burma.
	   He says Australia's consistently condemned Burma's State Law and 
Order Restoration Council regime and worked closely with its 
south-east Asian neighbours to encourage the restoration of 
	   A spokesman has quoted Mr DOWNER as saying he doesn't believe 
the imposition of similar measures by Australia against new 
investment in Burma will make any difference.
	   He'd been responding to US President BILL CLINTON'S overnight 
announcement of fresh sanctions on Burma banning new investments by 
US citizens.
	   AAP RTV sgm

   By Philip McClellan of Agence France-Presse
	   BANGKOK, April 23 AFP - A US decision to clamp sanctions on 
Burma is unlikely to hurt the economy which is increasingly 
dependent on its Asian trading partners, a Burmese official and 
analysts said today.
	   Many analysts say that the US sanctions will have little bite 
given the small number of American companies currently doing 
business in Burma, and will only open the door further for their 
Asian and European competitors.
	   US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the sanctions 
in Washington yesterday, citing the Burmese ruling junta's 
repression of the pro-democracy opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
	   Soe Myint, director general of the planning department in 
Burma's Ministry of Energy, said Burmese officials had already 
shrugged off the sanctions.
	   "We have been surviving without any assistance from the US 
government for years, so I don't think these sanctions will have 
any effect on the Myanmar (Burmese) economy," he said.
	   Soe Myint said the impact would be weakened because the 
sanctions did not cover investments already in place, including a 
$US1.2 billion ($A1.55 billion) natural gas venture in which Unocal 
Corp is a major partner.
	   The project, under which natural gas will be piped to Thailand 
from the Yadana fields in the Andaman Sea is expected to be 
Rangoon's main foreign currency spinner when it comes on line in 
the next few years.
	   Soe Myint said Rangoon was counting on continued interest in the 
Burmese economy from Asian companies who were unrestrained by 
government meddling.
	   "I personally think that the Myanmar nation can survive on the 
strength of its own economy but we also have lots of friends in 
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and in countries 
such as Korea," he said.
	   "I don't think we will have a problem surviving."
	   Other analysts say that far from spurring other countries to 
follow suit, the US sanctions could elicit a knee-jerk reaction 
from ASEAN countries already sensitive to interference in the 
affairs of other countries.
	   ASEAN - which groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the 
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - is expected to 
welcome Burma as a member later this year despite the objections of 
the United States and many European countries.
	   "One effect you might see from the sanctions is the shepherding 
of Burma into ASEAN more quickly than expected," said Peter 
Brimble, president of the Brooker Group Ltd, a Thai-based business 
and policy research company.
	   "Some ASEAN members could see the sanctions as a move to put 
ASEAN in between a rock and a hard place." 
	   The sanctions will also come as a blow to US companies whose 
attempts to do business in Burma have been hamstrung by a growing 
consumer backlash at home over the Burmese junta's human rights 
	   Those pressures have already prompted US companies such as soft 
drink giant Pepsi Co, Apple Computers and Levis to pull the plug on 
their Burmese investments in the past year.
	   The American Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok warned last year 
that US companies would be the hardest hit by an embargo and would 
only sit by as the slack was taken up by their competitors from 
around the region.
	   California-based Unocal said in a statement yesterday it was 
"disappointed" over the "policy of isolation and sanctions" chosen 
by the administration.
	   Japan, whose companies have become increasingly prominent 
players in the Burmese economy, said today that it would not (not) 
follow the US example - leaving the door wide open for fresh 
	   "I think we are going to see a lot of countries sitting on the 
fence on this one," said one analyst who warned that many 
governments - including those from Europe - would look at the US 
sanctions as an investment opportunity.
	   "Certainly, I don't think that the sanctions will stop any 
regional investors and the Europeans and Japanese may be looking 
into the possibilities," the analyst said.
	   The United States, which has up to now neither officially 
encouraged nor discouraged investment in Burma, is the fourth 
largest investor in Burma with $US582 million ($A751.48 million) in 
16 projects, according to official Burmese figures.
	   France heads the list of foreign investors in Burma, largely due 
to its interest in the gas pipeline, followed by Singapore and 
	   AFP gr
   The Australia Burma Council says Australia should follow the 
United States' lead and impose sanctions on Burma in response to 
human rights abuses by its military regime.
	   The Council was responding to US President BILL CLINTON'S 
overnight announcement of fresh sanctions on Burma banning new 
investments by US citizens.
	   Mr CLINTON cited what he said was deepening repression by 
Rangoon's military leaders as prompting the decision.
	   The Council says it applaudes the US' move, and has called on 
the Australian government to follow suit.
	   AAP RTV rmm/sgm