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IHT re US Sanctions
This from the IHT Front Page, lead right bar column story, and such,
went around the world to all the IHT Big Business readers in the US,
abroad, and on most Paris international airplane flights.
Wed, April 23, 1997
U.S. Bans Any New Investment In Burma; Albright Says Regime Continues
Repression In a
Brian Knowlton - International Herald Tribune
WASHINGTON - The United States announced Tuesday a
ban on new investment in Burma, which Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright said was moving in the
''dangerous and disappointing direction'' of large-scale repression.
Burma, she said, had ''closed political party
offices, arrested peaceful demonstrators, and
harassed and intimidated those espousing democratic
While Washington and its allies have made clear to
Burma the advantages of a democratic approach, she
said, ''Unfortunately, the military leaders in
Rangoon have chosen not to listen.''
In Burma, a military leader defiantly dismissed the
U.S. measure, Reuters reported. ''It's not a
problem for us,'' said Lieutenant General Khin
Nyunt, who holds the title of Secretary One of the
ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council.
But human rights groups in the United States and
exiled dissidents in Thailand applauded the move,
which appears certain to isolate the Rangoon regime
The announcement ended weeks of debate in the
administration, which has been torn between demands
from the business community to resist sanctions and
pressure from Congress and human rights groups to
take a tougher stance against a regime that is
already one of the world's pariahs. Burma has been
condemned for repression of its people and
involvement in, or failure to curb, widespread drug
Mrs. Albright said that the United States had
discussed the latest measures with its friends in
Asia and Europe. It was not clear, however, whether
the sanctions would be mirrored by other nations.
She defended the decision against critics who said
it was hypocritical to tighten economic pressure on
a small, poor, inward-looking country like Burma
while treating the issues of trade and human rights
separately in China, with its enormous commercial
and strategic clout.
''We have consistent principles and flexible
tactics,'' she said.
''We will continue to speak out about human rights
violations whether they're in China, Burma or Cuba.
We, however, have to have a flexible approach to
how we deal with it, depending upon what our
national interests are. And we have to understand
where we have strategic relationships that require
us to take a different approach.''
Michael Jendrzejczyk, Washington director of Human
Rights Watch/Asia, agreed with Mrs. Albright that
the situations in Burma, which had ''singled itself
out for stigmatization in the eyes of the world,''
and China, which was struggling to manage
''profound change,'' were fundamentally different.
He welcomed the U.S. move, saying that it would
increase pressure on Asian countries and others to
take a tougher line with Burma.
''This decision will up the ante for the Japanese,
and especially the Association of South East Asian
Nations,'' he said. ''They will now be under
greater scrutiny to justify their constructive
engagement approach and prove that it has had
ASEAN is planning to invite Burma to join in July.
The European Union decided last month to suspend
preferential trade benefits to Burma, and Mr.
Jendrzejczyk said the action Tuesday could trigger
debate in some European parliaments about further
The United Nations Human Rights Commission passed a
resolution last week voicing concern about rights
violations in Burma, including extrajudicial,
summary and arbitrary executions, deaths in
custody, torture, arbitrary arrests and forced
The sanctions announced Tuesday apply only to new
investment, leaving current investors untouched.
The United States is the fourth-largest investor in
Burma, after France, Singapore and Thailand.
The largest U.S. investor now in the country is
Unocal Corp., which has joined the French petroleum
company Total in a $1.2 billion partnership to
explore for and exploit natural gas fields.
Roger Beach, chairman of Unocal, which is based in
California, said during a visit to Bangkok that the
sanctions were counterproductive and would hurt the
Burmese people, but would not affect his company's
investment, Reuters reported.
Some points of the sanctions remained unclear and
will not be known until President Bill Clinton
signs the order in the next few days. One of those
was whether companies now investing in Burma will
be permitted to increase their overall levels of
Mrs. Albright said the United States had urged
Burma's leaders, to little effect, to begin a
serious dialogue with the National League for
Democracy, the opposition group led by Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi, and with representatives of ethnic