September 5, 2000

Amidst one of the most significant crackdowns against Burma’s pro-democracy movement the international community has failed to take any action against Burma’s ruling military.
Aung San Suu Kyi was forced to return to Rangoon after a nine day stand off with the military just outside of Rangoon. She has not been seen or heard from since 1.30am on Saturday 2 September. Her house is blockaded by riot police. Senior members of her Party are under house arrest, their phones have been cut and diplomats have been denied access to them. It is also thought that large numbers o f NLD members are in danger of being arrested after the military raided NLD offices and confiscated confidential documents.
The UK government, The European Union, the United States and the United Nations have all condemned the actions taken by Burma’s military rulers. But all have stopped short of taking any punitive action against the regime.
The human rights record in Burma has deteriorated over the last decade. The catalogue of abuses include: an estimated 8 million people in forced labour each year ; more child soldiers than any other country; while Amnesty International estimates that 500,000 ethnic people have been forced from their homes in the east of the country alone.
Despite rapid economic decline the junta continues to spend around half of its budget on ‘defence’. This has allowed it to expand Burma’s military to nearly half a million personnel. Investment by European companies such as Total-Fina of France and Premier Oil of the UK has provided financial support to the dictatorship. Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy and most of Burma’s ethnic minority leaders have urged international investment sanctions against the country. Despite this the only economic sanctions currently in place against the regime are US federal sanctions banning new investment in the country.
Yvette Mahon, a Director of the Burma Campaign UK says: “The international community has failed Burma. It’s easy for governments to be committed to their rhetoric but only a commitment to action will rid Burma of this brutal regime. We need investment sanctions to force this regime into meaningful negotiation with the National League for Democracy”
Notes to editors
1. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi won over 80% of the seats in Burma’s last general election on May 27 1990. The military has refused to transfer power.
2. The Burma Campaign UK established at a High Court hearing on December 2, 1999, that the UK government has the power to impose unilateral investment sanctions against Burma.
3. The UK has consistently rated amongst the top foreign investors in Burma. European investment accounts for at least one third of total investment in that country.
4. The foreign minister John Battle, met with the Burmese Ambassador to London on Monday 4 September, to express concern about the current crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. However he has failed to outline plans for further action against the regime.
5. The Current EU Common position on Burma comprises: a ban on all non-humanitarian aid, an Arms embargo, a ban on visas to senior SPDC officials and their families, a ban on transit visas for officials and their families, the withdrawal of GSP, a statement affirming the NLD’s position that tourism is inappropriate, a ban on equipment that might be used for internal repression or terrorism, the public naming of officials on the visa ban list and the freezing of assets held by those on the above list.

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