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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
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
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
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)