U.S. imposes new sanctions on Myanmar government

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 19, 2007 

WASHINGTON — President Bush, declaring that the world has been "horrified" by Myanmar officials' crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, on Friday imposed tough new sanctions against the military-led government.

"Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demands to stop their vicious persecution," the president said in a seven-minute statement in the Diplomatic Reception Room. "They continue to dismiss calls to begin peaceful dialogue aimed at national reconciliation."

He went on to describe "ongoing atrocities" and "brutal repression," as he detailed the latest in a series of increasingly tough steps that so far have produced few apparent results. Bush showed his disdain for the military government by referring to the country as "Burma," instead of Myanmar, the name the government uses.

"The world has been horrified by the response of Burma's military junta," the president said. "Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested."

Among Bush's new initiatives:

— Ordering the Treasury Department to designate 11 more Myanmar junta leaders for sanctions to prevent any use of U.S. bank accounts. He ordered assets of other junta leaders frozen last month.

He also issued an executive order to impose sanctions on 12 more people and entities. Bush didn't name them but said they included "individuals responsible for human rights abuses as well as public corruption, and those who provide material and financial backing to these individuals "or to the Myanmar government.

— Instructing the Commerce Department to "tighten its export control regulations for Burma."

— Asking China, India and others in the region to "review their own laws and policies" with regard to Myanmar.

Bush didn't directly criticize Myanmar's neighbors, but praised the European Union and Australia for announcing sanctions, as well as Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia for speaking out against the repression.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush acted Friday because Myanmar hadn't carried out earlier commitments.

One condition was that political prisoners be released. "They have not done that," she said. A second was for the government to designate a liaison with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and peace activist, and others in order to get a peaceful transition to democracy.

"They did designate somebody," she said, "but that person has not done anything to hold any of these talks."

The protests began in August, when thousands gathered for rallies against fivefold increases in fuel prices.

The demonstrations became daily events, and in early September, monks became involved as the protests focused against the military regime.

Bush tried to focus worldwide attention on the problems last month. The Treasury Department froze the assets of senior Myanmar officials, including junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, in U.S. banks and other financial institutions under American control.

And the State Department said it refused to give visas to about 260 Myanmar officials and their families to visit the United States.

But Bush conceded Friday that more pressure is needed. "Ultimately," he said, "reconciliation requires that Burmese authorities release all political prisoners — and begin negotiations with the democratic opposition under the auspices of the United Nations."

To read the executive order, go to www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/10/20071019-12.html

To read the Treasury statement, go to www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp622.htm

McClatchy Newspapers 2007

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