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Senator McConnell on Burma
Key U.S. Senator Pushes Burma Investment Sanctions
WASHINGTON (AP-Dow Jones)--U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, chairman of =
Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, announced Tuesday =
he intends to try to push through Congress legislation banning U.S. inves=
McConnell introduced the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act in December. =
bill bans U.S. investment in Burma, bans financial aid and directs U.S.
financial institutions to vote against loans for Burma.
A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Dana Rohrabach=
U.S. oil companies Unocal and Texaco have interests in Burma, and Atla=
Richfield has been eyeing natural gas investments there, sources said. =
Several oil services companies also have operations or are trying to
establish operations in Burma.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told a conference on Burma that the =
Banking Committee will hold a hearing on his legislation on Friday. The
chairman of the Banking Committee, Alfonse D'Amato, is a co-sponsor of
McConnell's legislation, which has been referred to D'Amato's committee. =
But a banking committee spokesman told Dow Jones that no hearing has =
scheduled. A McConnell spokeswoman said she would look into the discrepan=
McConnell told the conference that he has decided to try to move his =
forward because there's been no progress with the Clinton administration'=
policy of engagement with Burma's military-led government.
'We've pursued a policy of constructive engagement with Burma, but =
has happened,' McConnell told the conference.
'The only positive sign we have seen from the Burmese was the release,=
could call it that, of (opposition leader) Ang San Suu Kyi,' he said. =
Burma released Suu Kyi from house arrest last July, but she isn't allo=
travel or speak freely.
'If I thought there was any evidence the current approach is working, =
wouldn't have moved in the direction of sanctions,' McConnell said. 'We =
take this first step.'
McConnell said he first became interested in Burma because of its narc=
exports to the U.S. Illegal drug use is a problem in his home state of
Kentucky, he said.
But he is also concerned about human rights violations and the fact =
country's military rulers never recognized the results of Burma's 1990
democratic elections. Those elections were in favor of Suu Kyi and her =
League for Democracy party.
The U.S. hasn't sent an ambassador to Rangoon in protest of the failur=
recognize the 1990 elections. The U.S. has also suspended economic aid =
Burma, placed an embargo on arms sales, denied trade preferences and
decertified Burma as a narcotics cooperating country.
The U.S. sent two high-level delegations to Burma to try to change =
behavior of the military rulers.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Hubbard led a trip in November 1994 =
he told Burmese leaders that U.S. relations would worsen if their behavio=
didn't change, according to State Department testimony before Congress =
year. In addition, United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright visited =
in September 1995 with a similar message.
But McConnell maintained that these threats haven't brought about the =
change in Burma's behavior.
In addition to barring U.S. investment in Burma, McConnell's bill offe=
range of discretionary sanctions that the President could place on Rangoo=
The optional sanctions include a ban on U.S. imports from Burma, a =
U.S. travel to Burma, a ban on accepting diplomatic relations from Burma =
greater level than the representation accorded the U.S. in Rangoon, and =
U.S. aid from organizations that fund activities 'other than humanitarian
The bill also calls on the secretary of labor along with the secretary=
state to submit several reports to Congress within 90 days of the bill's
enactment. The reports would focus on Burmese compliance with internation=
labor standards, including the use of forced labor, child labor and invol=
prison labor; the degree to which foreign investment in Burma contributes=
violations of worker rights' labor practices in support of Burma's foreig=
tourist industry; and efforts by the U.S. to end violations of labor righ=
The bill's mix of optional and mandatory sanctions, along with its =
requirements, make it similar to legislation now moving through the House=
Representatives to place sanctions on countries who trade with Iran and =
McConnell said, however, there is an important distinction between =
political situation in Iran and the politics in Burma that he hopes to =
'Iran is a totally different situation, and you have to deal with each
situation differently,' he told Dow Jones.
'In Burma, you have a situation where there was a truly democratic =
that was never recognized. In Iran, I don't recall that problem,' he said=
A McConnell aide noted that Iran has been accused of exporting terrori=
while Burma's detractors complain about Rangoon's treatment of its own
PepsiCo Inc. recently pulled most of its operations out of Burma, larg=
because of protests from college students about Burma's treatment of its
But oil and gas companies haven't indicated they, too, would voluntari=
leave the country.
(END) AP-DOW JONES NEWS 14-05-96