Large-Scale Repression Cited for U.S. Sanctions

Article excerpt

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the U.S. sanctions against Burma at a State Department news conference Tuesday. The following are excerpts from that news conference:

Mrs. Albright: President Clinton has decided to impose a ban on new investment by Americans in Burma. This action is being taken under provisions of law authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein [California Democrat] and former senator [from Maine] and now Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

The decision is based on the president's judgment that the repression by the military authorities of the democratic opposition in Burma has deepened since enactment of the Cohen-Feinstein provisions this past September 30 and that a state of large-scale repression exists.

As the sponsors intended, we have used the prospect of new investment sanctions as a tool to encourage change. Specifically, we have urged the military authorities in Burma to begin a serious political dialogue with the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and with representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities.

In addition to our own discussions, we have worked with friends in Asia and Europe to make clear to Burma the potential international benefits of a more democratic approach. Unfortunately, the military leaders in Rangoon have chosen not to listen. Instead, they have clamped down further on democratic political activity. They have severely restricted Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to address her supporters publicly, closed political party offices, arrested peaceful demonstrators, and harassed and intimidated those espousing democratic principles.

The military has also continued a range of other repressive policies, including violence against civilians and forcible conscription. Regrettably, the Burmese government shows no signs of moderating its insecure and, we believe, ultimately doomed authoritarian policies. It remains embarked upon a course that can lead only to greater isolation, reduced economic vibrancy and steadily increased pressure for political change. This is a dangerous and disappointing direction.

The ban on new U.S. investment in Burma is the latest in a series of sanctions the United States has imposed in response to the utter lack of political freedom in that country and because its government has failed to cooperate in the war against drugs. …