Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Renew import ban on Burma, AAFA tells US

by Mungpi

New Delhi (mizzima) - The US Congress has been urged by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) on Monday to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which imposes a ban on import of goods from Burma.

Citing further human rights abuses in Burma by its military rulers, the AAFA called on the US Congress to renew the Act, slated to expire on July 26.

AAFA, the national trade association representing the apparel and footwear industry, and its suppliers, in its letter applauded US lawmakers Joe Crowley and Peter King for sponsoring the resolution which calls for the renewal of the Act.

The resolution was cosponsored by 19 other Congressmen and was introduced on July 4. It has been sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means for necessary action.

A similar resolution was also introduced by Senators Diane Feinstein and Mitch McConnell and cosponsored by 15 influential Senators including John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden at the Senate.

“AAFA strongly supports this renewal because it will send a clear and unmistakable message that the United States is not interested in doing business with regimes like the one that brutally enslaves the people of Burma,” Kevin Burke, president and CEO of AAFA said in a joint letter to Crowley and King.

“A unilateral approach, however, will only bring about a limited effect,” said Burke. “I hope the world community will join the United States in implementing economic sanctions to demonstrate that there is no room for oppression in the global marketplace,” Burke said.

Despite tightening of sanctions by the US and the European Union, Burma’s military rulers continue to enjoy business relations with neighbouring countries including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), China and India.

Critics said western sanctions have had little impact on the junta and has not forced them to change their behaviour because they continue to enjoy business relationship with neighbouring countries.

According to a local Weekly journal in Rangoon, foreign investments in Burma have touched USD 15 billion since the country opened up to foreign investment in 1988.

The report reveals that several neighbouring countries as well as the European Union member country like the United Kingdom are among the top investors in Burma.

While UK is the second largest investor in Burma over the past two decades with an estimated investment of USD 1.8 billion, the US ranked eighth with an estimated investment of USD 243.56 million.

The sanctions notwithstanding, Burma’s military regime has not shown any willingness to address the problems that made the sanctions necessary in the first pace but continue to violate the rights of the Burmese people, the AAFA said.

The junta has lately drawn international condemnation for charging and putting on trial detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The international community is outraged by the junta’s charges against the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi that she violated her house arrest terms and putting her on trial.

Under the charges, if found guilty, the Nobel Peace Laureate, whose party won a landslide victory in Burma’s last election in 1990 but was denied power, could face up to five years imprisonment.

Opposition groups as well as the international community believe that the charges and trial is a move by the junta to isolate Aung San Suu Kyi from the Burmese people and keep her out of the way during the general elections in 2010.

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