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US to impose economic sanctions on

Subject:       US to impose economic sanctions on Burma

US to impose economic
sanctions on Burma

Washington, April 22: President Bill Clinton has
approved improved imposing economic sanctions against
Burma due to human rights abuses by the Burmese
military government, an administration official said
early on Tuesday. The state department will announce
the sanctions, which will involve banning new US
investment in Burma, later on Tuesday, the official
said. The official said Mr 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 criticized 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. Ms Suu Kyi was
under house arrest for six years for her criticism of
the Rangoon government. Mr Clinton can impose sanctions
on Bruma of the democracy leader is arrested again or
the situation in Burma worsens. Last week, secretary of
state Madeleine Albright, who is expected to announce
the ban on Tuesday, turned up the pressure on Burma,
criticizing 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," Ms Albright said in a speech
to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. The 53-member UN
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. The Burmese spokesman
said 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 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 asked. The
New York Times reported in Tuesday editions 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 Corporation had with a French
company to explore and develop natural gas fields off
the Burmese coast (Reuter)

u.s. sanctions on Myanmar a
retrograde step: Asean
SINGAPORE, April 22. The U.S. decision to impose a
clutch of economic sanctions against the military
regime in Myanmar, has come as a rude shock to its
friends in Southeast Asia, But the junta in Yangon, has
apparently been expecting it in the wake of the strong
report tabled at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in
Geneva last week. Last year, Washington announced a
first stage response by declaring that leaders of the
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and
their relatives will not be given visas to travel to
the U.S. Diplomatic sources said that the latest
sanctions would apply mainly to the private sector and
stop the flow of investments into Myanmay. There was
not much of American investments in the country, but a
recent business delegation that came to interact with
the Asean chambers of commerce, were sore about the
"missed opportunities" for the private sector. At a
time when the Asian and other sources have been
campaigning for "constructive engagement" with the
military regime, the U.S. decision can cause ripples in
Southeast Asia. Already, the European Union has been
stepping up pressure on the Asian to do something
drastic and concrete in Yangon, to convince the West
that the policy of engagement con produce results. At a
meeting in February between the Asian and the E.U.
Foreign Ministers held here, the European delegation
put this across very clearly. The E.U. has decided to
withdraw the special concessions available under the
General System of Preferences (GAP) to Myanmar exports.
But this is so negligible that it can hardly make an
impact on the country or its economy. Business sources
and financial consultants here feel that the latest
American move can also be considered as a "political
signal and a warning" to the military regime first to
stop the violation of human rights and second to
initiate substantive measures for the restoration of
democracy. "Both the U.S. and the E.U. know that
sanctions do not work under these circumstances.
Myanmar is already an isolated economy and the Asian
plus a few countries in Europe, like France are its
only links to the rest of the would. The alternative
will be to drive the junta to the lap of Beijing, as it
happened from 19988 to 1992. The West must look at this
prospect before taking any more steps", the Asian
diplomats here argue. They explain that in recent
years, the SLORC has opened up slightly to its
neighbours in the region, even if not much progress has
been made on the restoration of democracy. "The basic
approach of the Asian has been to first open up the
economy, bring about changes in lifestyle, enhance
relations with the people and gradually effect a change
in the thinking of the military regime so that it can
take some steps to open up the political system. This
is a time consuming process and cannot happen
overnight", they say. But European diplomats here argue
that since becoming an Observer in the Asian grouping,
the attitude of the junta towards the pro-democracy
movement has only "hardened'. The crack down on the
activists of the National League for Democracy, the
military offensive against the Karen rebels and the
virtual house arrest of the Nobel Laureate, Ms. Aung
San Suu Kyi, have taken place from last June, When the
Asian took the decision. In July 1996, Myanmar formally
became an Observer along with Cambodia and Laos. The
Asian Foreign Ministers are meeting in Kuala Lumpur on
May 31 to not only finalise their agenda for the annual
ministerial meeting in July, but also consider the
membership of these three countries. Washington's
decision today may be another signal to Asian that it
should not rush into admitting Myanmar into the
grouping. The West obviously wants to see some
progress, at least a dialogue with the pro-democracy
movement, before any steps to normalise relations with
Yangon can begin. But the Asian sources say that
sanctions can have only a counter productive effect on
the military regime. "Isolation of Myanmar at this
stage will be a retrograde step. We have to think of
ways that can encourage the SLORC to open up and not
shut down. Sanctions will have only the latter effect.
Anyway. there is a lot of talking to be done to both
sides the West as well as the SLORC. The question is
who is to bell the cat and when", they wonder. Official
sources in Yangon brushed aside reports of the American
sanctions and said it made no difference to the
Government or the people of Myanmar. They were
confident that "the real friends" know better and
appreciate the progress made by Myanmar this decade.
sources in the All Burma Students Union in Bangkok,
welcomed the move by the U.S. to impose "some
sanctions" and said the international community should
now act together to exert pressure on the SLORC to
restore democracy. They hoped that the forthcoming
visit or the U.N. envoy to Yangon could provide the
occasion to convey a "clear and strong message to the