April 11, 2000

Today the European Union (EU) agreed three new measures to toughen its position against Burma’s military dictatorship. The EU agreed a ban on the export of equipment that might be used for internal repression or terrorism; the naming of individuals within the regime to whom the current EU visa ban applies; and the imposition of a freeze on the funds held abroad by those named persons.
The freezing of financial assets of senior Burmese personnel is the first direct financial sanction against Burma’s dictatorship and is welcomed by The Burma Campaign UK. It will send an important message to the Generals in Rangoon that they cannot continue to rule against the will of their own people with impunity. However, though these new measures are welcome, they do not address the most important aspect of European support for the regime, namely foreign investment. Investment from European companies in Burma provides the regime with the foreign capital it desperately needs. British investment is larger than most other foreign sources of capital.
The Burma Campaign UK proved at the High Court in December 1999 that the UK could legally impose a unilateral ban on British investment in Burma. This would affect British companies like Premier Oil UK, which is a major supporter of the junta. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratically elected National League for Democracy (which has been denied power by the military) has called for unilateral sanctions. She says: “We would like… the world to be aware that sanctions do help the movement for democracy in Burma. And we would like them to be aware of the fact that unilateral sanctions are better than no sanctions at all.” She has explicitly called for unilateral investment sanctions against the regime in the absence of multilateral agreement on such sanctions.
John Jackson, a Director of the Burma Campaign UK says: “The EU’s decision to freeze the funds of Burma’s generals is an extremely important first step. However, the real goal must be to stop European companies fuelling the awful oppression suffered by Burma’s people. Now that there is a warmer climate for economic sanctions in Europe, the UK government can take this opportunity to impose unilateral investment sanctions against Burma”.


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