[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Clinton keeps the faith with peo

Subject: Clinton keeps the  faith  with  people  of  Burma

Date: 24 Apr 1997 
Publication: The Nation 
Section: Local 

"Clinton keeps the faith with people of Burma" 

US President Bill Clinton's decision on Tuesday to impose economic sanctions 
on Burma, by banning new American investment in retaliation for the repression 
by the Burmese junta of democratic political activities, is a welcoming sign. 

Although the long-awaited resolution came a bit too late to spare the lives 
and suffering of tens of thousands of Burmese refugees and political 
activists, the restriction will create a widespread and strong impact, not 
only on Burma, but countries near and far that choose to engage the repressive 

In his own words, Clinton said through this action, the US seeks ''to keep 
faith with the people of Burma, who made clear their support for human rights 
and democracy in the 1990 elections which the regime chose to disregard". 

He said US-Burma relations will improve only as long as there is democratic 
progress and respect for human rights. 

In announcing the sanctions, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is 
known for her sharp tongue against autocratic governments around the globe, 
particularly the junta in Rangoon, said Clinton's judgement was based on the 
fact that repression in Burma has deepened and persisted on a large scale 
since the enactment of the Cohen-Feinstein law last September. 

It is also in response to ''the utter lack of political freedom" and the 
failure of the ruling Burmese State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) 
to cooperate in the war against drugs. 

Albright said the US believes that the sanctions in combination with the 
earlier actions Washington and other nations have taken ''will deal a further 
blow to investor confidence in Burma". 

''It 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 

Predictably, Slorc promptly, and coldly, brushed aside any impact the 
sanctions might have on the country. It again stubbornly rendered unwarranted 
arguments that human rights abuses exist in the country. 

Slorc leader Lt Gen Khin Nyunt reportedly said the regime has no regrets over 
the latest tough US economic measure as it has ''many friends in countries 
around the region who understand us". 

''We have five neighbours ... we have very good border trade," he told 

The Burmese leader quashed any hope that the regime might review its harsh 
policy saying: ''We don't have anything to reconsider because we are walking 
in a straight line." 

Although Slorc is putting on a brave face in light of an imminent economic and 
financial squeeze, the US sanctions are certainly a strong political boost and 
supportive to the sagging morale of the Burmese pro-democracy movement led by 
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The US measure is also a clear slap in the face for other nations, 
particularly Asean powers and Japan, as well as multinational companies, 
rushing into Burma arguing that economic engagement and prosperity would bring 
about political improvement, if not reform, in Burma. 

Already US companies are bearing the brunt of the sanctions. Yesterday, 
Unocal, which is one of four partners in a consortium to develop the 
controversial Yadana natural gas project, announced that it is giving up on at 
least two prospective natural gas pockets located off Burma, as well as other 
projects in the wake of the sanctions. 

Although Asean has insisted that the US measure would not affect its decision 
to welcome Burma into the grouping, members will certainly find it more 
difficult to decide on the timing for Burma's entry. 

Despite their tacit agreement to embrace Burma by July, Asean members' 
intransigence to go ahead with the schedule will certainly put their relations 
with the US, which is the grouping's political and security ally, as well as a 
major trading and investment partner to virtually all members, in a very 
awkward dilemma. Moreover, Asean and the US ­ which hold regular meetings year 
round ­ might have to confront one another at every forum with a third country