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US Expands Burma Sanctions


The United States is increasing sanctions on Burma. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the move is part of an effort to step up pressure on the Burmese military government.

U.S. President George Bush says he is expanding sanctions already in place, and will now freeze the American assets of state-owned companies in Burma.

"Today, I've issued a new executive order that instructs the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of Burmese state-owned companies that are major sources of funds that prop up the junta," said President Bush.

Last year, the president announced his intention to tighten sanctions on Burma following a crackdown on dissent. The United States has already frozen the assets of more than 30 select individuals and companies with links to the military government in Rangoon. Among them: Steven Law and his father Lo Hsing Han, described by the U.S. Treasury Department as key financial operatives for the Burmese regime

Now, Mr. Bush says U.S. Treasury officials are being given the authority to add any person or entity responsible for supporting, empowering, and enriching the Burmese regime including state-owned enterprises.

"These companies - in industries such as gems and timber - exploit the labor of the downtrodden Burmese people and enrich only the generals," he said. "And today, I am sending another clear message that I expect there to be change and I expect the generals to honor the will of the people."

Mr. Bush announced plans to expand the sanctions at a White House event celebrating Americans of Asian and Pacific island heritage. He spoke of their love of freedom, and vowed to push for human rights for people living under repressive regimes throughout Asia.

The president made specific mention of North Korea, noting the need to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. He also talked about the recent Chinese crackdown on protests in Tibet, calling once again for talks between Chinese officials and representatives of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"I think it is important that there be a renewed dialogue and that dialogue must be substantive," he said.

Mr. Bush said the talks must address in a real way the deep and legitimate concerns of the Tibetan people.

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