Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama Signs Burma Sanctions Renewal into Law

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON —US President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law the Burma Sanctions Renewal Act, thus extending sanctions on the country’s military junta.

The bill, unanimously passed by both the US House of Representative and the Senate last week, renews the current sanctions on imports from Burma for an additional three years and maintains the ban on the import of jade and other gems from Burma.

In a statement, the White House said Obama signed into law “HJ Res. 56, which renews the import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.”

Burmese pro-democracy activists in the US welcomed the decision.

“By signing the sanctions renewal resolution, unanimously approved by the Senate and the House on July 24 and 21 respectively, President Obama sends a clear signal to the Burmese military junta that the United States’ support of the democracy movement in Burma led by Aung San Suu Kyi is still strong, consistent and decisive,” said Aung Din, the executive director of the US Campaign for Burma.

The renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act follows Obama’s decision on May 15 to extend investment prohibitions against the Burmese military regime that began under President Bill Clinton.

The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act was first enacted in 2003 under the leadership of the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos.

“I introduced the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act because we must show the military regime currently ruling with an iron fist in Burma that there are consequences for their actions,” said Congressman Joseph Crowley, one of the sponsors of the legislation.

“Burma’s military regime has carried out a brutal campaign against its own people. It has destroyed 3,000 villages, forced one million people to flee as refugees, used rape as a weapon of war, and pressed millions of civilians into forced labor—modern-day slave labor,” he added.

Crowley said that the junta has also rejected recent diplomatic outreach, which would have been well-received in the global community.

“Specifically, the junta refused United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to release political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the nonviolent movement for democracy and human rights in Burma. Not only did the junta refuse Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, they even refused Ban Ki-moon’s request to meet with her,” he said.

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