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US Imposes New Sanctions on Burma


The United States Tuesday imposed additional sanctions against Burma over the military government's human rights violations and suppression of democracy. The new Treasury Department action targets family members of Burmese leaders and business figures associated with the Rangoon government. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is increasing the financial squeeze on the Burmese leadership, extending sanctions to wives and close business associates of the country's military rulers.

The Treasury Department said it was targeting companies and key individuals of the Htoo Group of Companies, which are controlled by Burmese business tycoon Tay Za and which have acquired aircraft and other military hardware for the government.

The Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Adam Szubin called Tay Za "an arms dealer and a henchman of Burma's repressive junta."

Szubin said the Bush administration will continue to take action against the Rangoon government, and those who prop it up, so long as human rights violations continue and democracy is suppressed.

Tay Za and some 30 other prominent Burmese including military chief Than Shwe are already blacklisted by the Treasury Department. Tuesday's action adds the spouses of four senior officials including the wife of Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

The designation freezes any assets the individuals and companies may have in U.S. financial institutions and prohibits dealings with them by American persons or firms.

It is unclear whether the newly-listed Burmese have U.S. holdings. But White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said the move in any case further isolates the Burmese rulers.

"We do know that sanctions can have an impact," she said. "They help curtail economic activity and can further isolate the junta, which is part of getting them to recognize that they need to open up and allow the democratically-elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to be able to meet with the leaders that they said that they would allow her to. And it's been a halting progress. They say that they're going to do things that they don't follow up on."

The Burmese leadership has reneged on commitments for political outreach it made in response to international outrage over its crackdown on popular protests last September.

It sent an official to meet with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in October, but otherwise spurned a U.N. Security Council call for the release of all political prisoners and the commencement of a genuine dialogue with the opposition.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been under detention most of the time since her National League for Democracy Party won national elections in 1990, but was barred from taking power.

A written White House statement Tuesday said the Burmese government continues to keep Aung San Suu Kyi isolated, refuses to allow the return of U.N. envoy for Burma Ibrahim Gambari, and continues to hunt down peaceful activists.

It accused authorities of planning secret trials for 11 detained pro-democracy figures.

The statement said the United States will continue to do its part to help the people of Burma and said other countries, especially Burma's neighbors, must do the same.