Myanmar faces US sanctions

  • ASEAN+
  • Monday, 17 Feb 2003

WASHINGTON: The United States said it was highly sceptical that Myanmar's military was serious about reform, and warned it was considering further sanctions against the junta as its patience wears thin. 

Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour delivered a highly pessimistic survey of the political situation in Myanmar. 

He said the US government was disappointed that the release from house arrest last year of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not followed by a genuine effort by the government to enter into dialogue with the opposition. 

“We remain highly sceptical about the regime's commitment to any political transition,” Craner said at a conference here of exiled Myanmar politicians and rights activists. 

“The (junta's) disregard for human rights and democracy extends to every conceivable category of violation and we will be cataloguing these this year. 

“The regime suppresses political dissent by censorship, persecution, beatings, disappearances and imprisonment,” he said at the event sponsored by the Free Burma coalition. 

Craner said the United States could not verify that more than 100 political prisoners the regime promised to release have yet been freed, and said hundreds more remained in prison in poor conditions. 

He said Washington still harboured hope that a UN-brokered dialogue between the military and Suu Kyi would yield results. 

But he warned: “we are disappointed and frustrated by the recalcitrance of the (government). 

“Our patience for positive change is beginning to run out and we, along with the UK and others, are considering all options, including further sanctions.” 

The United States currently maintains an investment ban, travel restrictions for Myanmar officials and an arms embargo on Myanmar among other sanctions. 

“Only our sanctions on Iraq are tougher,” Craner said. 

Washington is a frequently fierce critic of Myanmar, and a strong supporter of Suu Kyi, who won an overwhelming election victory in 1990 which was never recognised by the ruling military. 

On Wednesday she called for dialogue with the military government to start a process of national reconciliation but questioned the junta's desire for talks. 

Craner said the junta's “disastrous policies” had brought Myanmar to the edge of a “humanitarian crisis arising from the dreadful nexus of hunger, malnutrition, lack of education and HIV/AIDS.” 

President George W. Bush last month accused Myanmar of failing to adequately battle drugs production, dealing a body blow to the military's bid to shed its reputation as a “narco-state.” – AFP  

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