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AP::Why US Should Stop Investments
- Subject: AP::Why US Should Stop Investments
- From: ktint@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 11:35:00
Subject: AP::Why US Should Stop Investments in Burma
Why US Should Stop Investments in Burma
By AYE AYE WIN
Associated Press Writer
RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said today
she would not oppose an economic embargo against Burma being considered by
the U.S. Senate.
"I certainly will not protest against them, not the way this government
is behaving," Suu Kyi told reporters. "I don't think economic sanctions
would hurt the ordinary people of Burma at all."
Suu Kyi said 217 of her supporters now have been arrested by the
country's military regime in an effort to block a pro-democracy conference
planned for this weekend at her home. The meeting would be the most
important of Burma's opposition in six years.
Asked if she might be arrested herself, Suu Kyi said: "It's quite possible."
Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring
democracy to Burma.
The White House said today it had protested the arrests to Burmese
authorities. "A continued crackdown would lead to a further deterioration
in our already strained relationship," it said in a statement.
The State Department on Thursday urged Americans to curtail
non-essential travel to Burma.
Japan also demanded the release of the dissidents today. Japanese
Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda told Burma the arrests could discourage
Japanese investment in the country.
The U.S. Senate opened hearings Thursday on imposing an embargo on Burma
in a bid to force democratic changes. Burma's pro-democracy activists have
said that foreign investment only sustains the military regime, which has
ruled since 1962.
Some foreign companies eager to profit by developing the moribund
economy claim money will trickle down to the country's desperately poor
But supporters of an embargo say it would affect mostly the military
government and a small circle of Rangoon's elite who are the main
beneficiaries of foreign investment. Any economic gains Burma has accrued
from liberalizing its economy have not trickled down to the poor of the
cities and the countryside, in what is still an agricultural-based economy.
"If you look at Rangoon, sure, there's a lot of little investment and
there's a lot of symbolic change," said Josef Silverstein, a Rutgers
University professor who was studied Burma for four decades.
"There's better paved roads, there's modern hotels ... and there's a lot
of nouveau riche that we find in any community where the military and the
people close to them are ... using the power of the state to get special
privileges and thereby enrich themselves," said Silverstein.
"But if you go outside of Rangoon and you go up into the border areas
and you look and see and talk to the people in these areas, the country is
in a shambles. There is no rice at a price that people can buy."
Suu Kyi said "the great majority of the people are getting nothing from
the so-called new investments."
A U.S. embargo, therefore, could profoundly affect Burma because the
United States is the fifth-biggest investor, mainly in the oil exploration
sector -- which means the lion's share of revenues goes straight into
The Burmese press today devoted front pages to a conference attended by
junta leaders to promote foreign investment but, as usual, made no mention
of Suu Kyi.
The streets of Rangoon remained calm today, although repeated government
broadcasts announcing the mass arrests jarred the nerves of ordinary
Burmese. They talked of hoarding rice, a traditional hedge against trouble.
The government first confirmed the arrests on Thursday, saying the
country would explode into anarchy if the democracy activists met.
Most Burmese had been unaware of the roundup until then.
State-controlled newspapers have made no mention of the arrests, and few
Burmese have access to foreign radio broadcasts.
The weekend meeting would bring together opposition candidates who won a
majority of seats in 1990 parliamentary elections. The junta never honored
the elections, and many of the winners were killed, jailed or driven into