Bill Introduced in Congress to Renew Sanctions on Burma

US Sen John McCain speaks to reporters during a visit to Burma in January. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

US Sen John McCain speaks to reporters during a visit to Burma in January. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

WASHINGTON, DC — Top American lawmakers have called for renewal of sanctions on Burma and said that this is not the right time to issue waivers to US companies for new investments in the Southeast Asian nation.

Identical pieces of legislation were issued in both chambers of the US Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—last week wherein several top lawmakers reviewing current situation in Burma said that this is not the right time for US companies to make fresh investment in the country.

“I urge the administration to refrain from issuing waivers at this time for new US investment in Burma’s oil and gas industry until Aung San Suu Kyi’s concerns with MOGE [Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise] are sufficiently addressed,” Sen John McCain said, even as he noted that he supports the Obama administration’s decision to suspend sanctions on US investment in Burma.

Renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would leave intact the import ban against Burmese goods, thus maintaining leverage the executive branch can utilize to help prompt further reform, said Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, reintroducing the bill in the Senate last week.

“Reauthorizing this measure would permit the executive branch, in consultation with Congress, to calibrate sanctions as necessary, thus preserving its flexibility,” he said in his remarks on the floor of the Senate. The bill has been reintroduced by several US senators, a similar version of which has also been reintroduced in the House of Representatives.

“The Burmese government still has not met all the necessary conditions to justify a complete repeal of all existing sanctions. Despite the unmistakable progress made by the Burmese government, now is not the time to end our ability either to encourage further governmental reform or to revisit sanctions if necessary. As Suu Kyi herself has cautioned, the situation in Burma is ‘not irreversible.’ Serious challenges need to be addressed,” McConnell said.

“Violence in Kachin State remains a serious problem. Numerous political prisoners remain behind bars. The constitution is still undemocratic. The regime’s relationship with North Korea, especially when it comes to arms sales with Pyongyang, remains an issue of grave concern,” the senator said.

McConnell said renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will leave undisturbed the process for suspending sanctions announced three weeks ago. “In part for this reason, the State Department supports renewal of this measure. In fact, a vote for reauthorization of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act should be seen as a vote to support the administration’s easing of sanctions and a vote to support reform efforts in Burma,” he said.

Sen Diana Feinstein, who co-sponsored the legislation, said even though remarkable changes have taken place in Burma after years of violence and repression, the government of Burma still has a lot of work to do to demonstrate to the international community, and, above all, the people of Burma that it is truly committed to reform, democratization and national reconciliation.

“We should renew this ban for another year as an incentive to the government of Burma to continue on the path it has undertaken and take additional actions,” she said. “The fact of the matter is, the reforms are not irreversible and the government of Burma still needs to do more to respond to the legitimate concerns of the people of Burma and the international community,” the senator said.

Feinstein said McConnell has recently spoken with Aung San Suu Kyi directly about this matter and she supports renewing the import ban for another year. “I believe that renewing this ban will help keep Burma on the path to full democratization and national reconciliation and support the work of Suu Kyi, the democratic opposition, and the reformists in the ruling government,” she said.

“It will give the administration additional leverage to convince Burma to stay on the right path. The administration will still have the authority to waive or suspend the import ban as it has suspended sanctions on investment and financial services if the government of Burma took the appropriate actions,” the senator said.

“If we let the import ban expire, however, and Burma backslides on reform and democratization, we would have to pass a new law to re-impose the ban. By passing this joint resolution, we ensure that the administration has the flexibility it needs to respond to events in Burma as it has done so with financial services and investment,” Feinstein said.

McCain hoped that Suu Kyi and her fellow members of Parliament in Burma can work legislatively to reform the country’s state-owned enterprises, especially MOGE, and to make their operations fully accountable to Burma’s elected leaders and fully consistent with international standards, such as the International Monetary Fund’s Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency.

Calling on the Obama administration to refrain from issuing waivers for new US investment in Burma’s oil and gas industry, McCain said, “I also urge the administration to push our European allies to do the same. This is an important case in which continued principled US leadership is needed.”


4 Responses to Bill Introduced in Congress to Renew Sanctions on Burma

  1. This flip-flopping by congress on Myanmar sanctions is preposterous and rediculous. The sanctions in the first place were never effective. They never bothered the “seat of power” and only further detereorated the poverty of the people. This proves that all this talk about democracy, human rights, peoples welfare is “capitalist propaganda” to bully and force the country to open up for their “cronies – IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, ect. and the giant global corporations to have “unfetered access” to the country’s vast resources and dominate the economy. At the same time to enable their “pivot Asia” strategy and isolate China’s rise as far as possible. The disastrous failure in Afganistan and collapse of their position in Pakistan is propelling the “ugly hedgemonic head of the U.S.” to emerge in that region. Wooing India, Vietnam, Philippines and bullying Myanmar with purposes of economic domination, keeping the people poor and untrained, and encircle China.

    The people of Myanmar are fully aware of this U.S. agenda, and the people of India have vivid memories of how the U.S. treated them before India became a nuclear power. Vietnam of course still suffers from all the ordinance the U.S. dropped on the Vietnamese with reckless abandon. The American politicians have conveniently forgotten their past misdeeds perpetrated on these countries. These politicians keep the American people in the dark. Such historical facts, especially the misdeeds are rarely by the so-called Think tanks in Washington DC and the elite academia that are again the instruments of propaganda for the Democrats and the Republicans, that today only represent 1% of the American people – the financial a banking thugs of Wall Street and the giant global corporations. America today is no longer a democracy, it is pure and simple a “putocracy”, as all politicians at the State and Federal levels are in the hip pockets of this 1% moneyed class.

    This threat of congress to reinstate sanctions on Myanmar is beyond the pale. The peoples of Asia are not going to allow such an agenda of the self-proclaimed “ONLY SUPER POWER” in the world, that is practicallly bankrupt and living on borrowed money, mostly from Asia.

    Naphetchun Maung Sein
    California ,USA

    • Why are you then so proud to be from California, USA, if the Americans are such bullies trying to “contain” China’s Greta Economic Leapfrog Forward. How dare they, these stupid Americans!

  2. Suu Kyi would be horrified that certain Senators are now alleging that she supports a continuing ban against products manufactured in labour-intensive industries like garment manufacture which amounted to over 80% in value of Burmese exports to the US in the years leading up to the 2003 BFDA Act. When the Resolution reaches the House of Representatives (after the Senate Committee stage), I do hope they at least propose amendments, preferably reject it altogether. The President could have the last say by declaring a waiver on national interest grounds against the ban. Derek Mitchell, US Ambassador-designate, would surely recommend this.

  3. Ms Suu Kyi and her NLD actually represent the people of Burma,haing won elections two times,1990 & 2012,she must have her reasons for the decision.
    There is no doubt that Ms Suu Kyi is thinking of the best interest of the Burmese people,sadly the same cannot be said for some FGenerals still in power,some vested interest groups and some greedy opportunists.SAD!

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