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Clinton Imposes Visa Ban On SLORC M

Subject: Clinton Imposes Visa Ban On SLORC Member

BURMA-U.S.: Clinton Imposes Visa Ban On SLORC Member
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (IPS) - In the latest measures leveled against  
Burma's military authorities, U.S. President Bill Clinton Thursday  
announced that members of the junta, their families, and key  
supporters will be banned from entering the United States.
   White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the visa ban was  
directed against ''ongoing repression'' by the State Law and Order  
Restoration Committee (SLORC), the name the junta gave itself  
after taking over the government in 1988. 
   Those being banned from U.S. territory are ''persons who are  
judged to be formulating or implementing policies that are  
impeding the transition to democracy in Burma, or persons who  
benefit from such policies and their immediate families,''  
according to the announcement. 
   The measure was tied to last week's arrest of as many as 500  
activists of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD),  
which was scheduled to hold a party congress over the weekend.  
Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate,  
was also prevented from speaking to her followers for the first  
time since she was released from six years of house arrest 15  
months ago. 
   Suu Kyi was originally arrested after her party, the National  
League for Democracy, (NLD) swept elections in 1990 with more than  
80 percent of the vote. The SLORC, however, ignored the results. 
   Clinton's action Thursday was requested by the U.S. Congress  
which last month -- before the latest roundups -- expressed ''deep  
concern'' over the dozens of arrests which had been reported since  
   In language attached to a foreign aid spending bill, lawmakers  
said they ''support the imposition of a ban on new investment in  
the event that specified acts are taken against Aung San Suu Kyi,  
the legitimately elected leader of Burma, or there is large-scale  
violence or repression of the democratic opposition.'' 
   While Clinton's official announcement did not refer to this  
provision, his U.N. ambassador, Madeleine Albright, told reporters  
here that the administration ''is also reviewing the situation in  
Burma in light of the ...new law which authorises the president,  
under certain circumstances, to impose sanctions on new investment  
in Burma.'' 
   Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who has led the sanctions  
fight in  Congress, called on Clinton to impose the investment ban  
immediately. ''There is no question the recent events reflect  
SLORC's decision to directly challenge America's commitment to  
democracy and its champions so obviously under siege,'' he  
declared from the Senate floor. 
   While levels of U.S. investment in the Southeast Asian nation  
have been falling in recent years, U.S. companies, notably in the  
oil and gas sector, still invest about 50 million dollars a year  
   Last month, Burma's exiled National Government of the Union of  
Burma sued the biggest U.S. investor by far, Unocal, for  
''vicarious liability'' for abuses committed during the  
construction of a railroad in Burma that is being built by the  
regime to supply materials for a natural gas pipeline. 
   Backed up by independent human rights groups, like Amnesty  
International, and the U.S. State Department, the exiled  
government is charging that the SLORC has used unpaid forced  
labour to build the project, and that UNOCAL bears indirect  
   ''California law is very clear that you cannot enter into a  
contract with someone who is going to commit wrongful acts if you  
know, or should have known, about these acts,'' Cristobal Bonifaz,  
one of the attorneys representing the exiled government, told IPS.  
Unocal has denounced the lawsuit as ''false, irresponsible, and  
   The Unocal suit is one prong of a broader campaign to ban U.S.  
investment from Burma. In the last year, a number of local U.S.  
jurisdictions, including San Francisco and the state of  
Massachusetts, have enacted measures banning companies with  
investment in Burma from bidding on government contracts. New York  
City and California's legislature are considering similar  
   The campaign has also been strong in Western Europe. In recent  
months, two European breweries, Carlsbert and Heineken announced  
they are pulling out of Burma, while a large Danish pension fund  
has sold off its shares of the French oil company Total which also  
has significant investments in Burma.
   In addition to arresting Suu Kyi's followers and barricading  
her residence, the SLORC also accused Washington's charge  
d'affaires in Rangoon of interfering in Burma's internal affairs  
and colluding with the NLD in planning the aborted party congress.
   Analysts here say the new crisis has been building steadily  
since May when the SLORC carried out its last big roundup of NLD  
   Since then, the SLORC has ignored all calls by western powers  
and Suu Kyi for dialogue. In July, Suu Kyi called publicly for an  
international investment ban, while the SLORC began its own  
propaganda campaign depicting her as subversive and a tool of  
foreign interests. 
   The regime has evidently been bolstered by the decision in July  
by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to admit  
Burma as an observer. The SLORC has said it hopes to get full  
ASEAN membership next year.
   The ASEAN nations, who have become major investors in Burma,  
have argued that a ''constructive engagement'' policy with the  
regime will be more effective than one of confrontation and  
   The military authorities appear to be counting on ASEAN, India,  
and China to insulate the country's economy from the effects of  
western sanctions. Asked about this, the SLORC's planning minister  
last month told reporters that his country ''can survive on its  
own... We can divert our markets to other places,'' he added,  
noting that the Burma is surrounded by 2.5 billion consumers. 
   Albright, who headed a U.S. delegation to Burma a year ago,  
suggested Burma's neighbours should review their position.
   ''We are asking our friends ...who advocate constructive  
engagement with the SLORC to be sure that their engagement is, in  
fact, constructive. We should not, after all, be rewarding  
despots, and we should be encouraging them either to change or to  
leave,'' she said.
   Washington had previously eliminated all but humanitarian and  
anti-drug assistance to Burma, placed an embargo on arms sales,  
and has pledged to vote against all loans to Burma from  
international institutions. (ENDS/IPS/JL/YJC/96)