The European Union has announced new sanctions on Burma. They include withholding visas from Burma's top leaders and their families, banning investment in certain Burmese state-run enterprises, and encouraging E-U members to vote against loans to Burma by international financial institutions. The announcement follows the Burmese dictatorship's failure to meet the E-U’s October 7th deadline for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the completion of concrete steps toward democratization.
A leading democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. In May 2003, a convoy carrying her and other members of Burma's National League for Democracy was brutally attacked by forces affiliated with Burma's leaders, and she was taken into custody.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the European Union's action is a positive step that underlines the international community's desire to see positive and peaceful change in Burma. The U.S. urges the E-U to move quickly to final adoption and implementation of the sanctions. Should Burma continue to deny its citizens basic human rights and freedoms, says Mr. Boucher, the U.S. urges the E-U and other democratic countries to consider further strengthening sanctions, including placing a comprehensive import ban on Burmese products:
"We continue to call on Burma to engage in meaningful dialogue leading to genuine national reconciliation. We call on them to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and to allow the National League for Democracy to open its offices and participate in the political process."
The recent dismissal of General Khin Nyunt, Burma's prime minister, and his replacement by General Soe Win, who was reportedly responsible for the events of May 2003, indicate a hardening attitude by the junta members.
U.S. State Department spokesman Boucher says that the "Burmese junta continues to ignore the demands of the international community and [Burma's] own citizens for democracy and the free exercise of fundamental human rights."