Removal of U.S. Sanctions on Burma is Premature and Dangerous

(Washington, D.C.) — Warning about the dangers of removing the ban on investments in Burma, United to End Genocide’s president, Tom Andrews, expressed concern that the Obama administration is rewarding a government that continues to commit human rights atrocities. “Burmese democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has urged the United States to be cautious as it considers the removal of sanctions on Burma. Daw Suu recognized that ‘people are too optimistic about the scene in Burma’ and I agree,” Andrews said referring to a comments made by Suu Kyi on May 15. “The question has never been whether or not to remove sanctions, but when and how. President Obama’s premature action to remove the investment ban on Burma is overly optimistic. It ignores the reality of the situation on the ground, including ongoing atrocities. This is a dangerous decision that is likely to further exacerbate human rights abuses and has left the U.S. government without any leverage in future.” Andrews recently returned from Burma’s Kachin State where ongoing attacks by the Burmese army have caused tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. In recent weeks, the escalation of troops has sparked fears that a major offensive is imminent. “Economic investment is one of the driving forces behind the Burmese army’s attacks against civilians in Kachin State. By expediting the rollback of sanctions, President Obama has told Burma’s long suffering ethnic nationalities that they aren’t part of the equation,” continued Andrews. There is concern about the lack of consultation with civil society in the United States and Burma. Last week, nine rights organizations sent an urgent message to top administration officials citing their strong concern regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s earlier announcement that the United States would be lifting sanctions on Burma in the very near future. According to the letter, the “premature lifting of the investment and financial services bans will undermine prospects for successful reform, empower repressive actors in the government, military and their business allies and weaken the position of Burma’s democratic opposition, ethnic nationalities and civil society.” Groups signing on to the letter included United to End Genocide, AFL-CIO, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Asian Democracy, Open Society Foundations, Orion Strategies, Physicians for Human Rights and U.S. Campaign for Burma. The Obama administration’s decision to lift economic sanctions comes despite weeks of warnings from human rights and investor groups that the move is premature.

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 The Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network are now United to End Genocide. The organization remains committed to its work to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to all of Sudan as well as to end violence in other areas of mass atrocities. The merger creates the world's largest anti-genocide activist organization, with a membership base of hundreds of thousands of committed activists, an unparalleled nationwide student movement, more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights partner organizations, and a network of institutional investors collectively representing more than $3 trillion in assets under management.
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