Friday, August 3, 2012

US extends import sanctions for three years

Friday, 03 August 2012 14:18 Mizzima News    

The US House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend a ban on Burmese imported goods and other sanctions for three years and to renew the White House's authority to waive the restriction if the country continues to make political and economic reforms.

The US House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Photo: Whitehouse. gov

The Senate is expected to approve the same authorization and send it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. In the House, the measure was unanimously approved.

Earlier, Burmese officials said the US should remove all sanctions in order to help the government in its restructuring of the country, involving everything from releasing hundreds of political prisoners, granting workers’ rights, rewriting foreign investment laws, reorganizing banks and the monetary system, and removing some media restrictions.

Last month, opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi lobbied US Sen. Mitch McConnell to work to remove or ease sanctions, including the trade ban, which critics say mainly hurts low-income workers in Burma, especially in the clothing and textile industry?

However, the US Campaign for Burma on Friday welcomed the US action “to extend sanctions against the ruling elite, military and cronies…who continue to commit crimes against humanity and against ethnic minorities under a system of impunity.”

“Congress has sent a clear strong signal to Burma’s ruling regime, sanctions will remain in place while political prisoners remain behind bars, military attacks and human rights abuses against ethnic minority civilians persist, and until genuine national reconciliation, justice and accountability are achieved,” said Jennifer Quigley, the advocacy director.

“While some reforms have been undertaken by President Thein Sein, Congress recognizes much more needs to be done.  Renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act demonstrates the need to focus on ethnic minority rights and genuine democratic reform and freedom,” she said.

On July 11, President Obama lifted the ban on investments and financial transactions in Burma through a presidential waiver.

“As it stands now, investment in many of the most attractive sectors of the Burmese economy is likely to worsen the human rights situation while directly benefitting individuals and entities responsible for rights abuses, who contribute to corruption, or are otherwise acting to obstruct political reform,” said the US advocacy group in a statement.

“While much international attention has been paid to the reform efforts underway, little focus has been paid to the problems that persist and the new concerns that have arisen,” it said.

“Hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars. Burma’s military continues to commit human rights abuses against ethnic minority civilians and blocks humanitarian aid access to those displaced by attacks.

“The economy remains firmly under the control of Burma’s ruling elite including the military, state-owned enterprises, and cronies.  Burma must undertake additional reform that benefits all people in Burma before further sanctions should be lifted,” it said.

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