Failure to Update the List of Bad Actors in Burma Risks Fueling Abuses
Rights Group Calls Lifting U.S. Investment Ban on Burma “Grossly Irresponsible”
Seeks Action by Congress to Maintain Pressure on Regime(Washington, D.C.) —United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews released the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s action to clear the way for U.S. companies to invest in Burma: “President Obama’s latest decision to remove the investment ban on Burma is grossly irresponsible. The U.S. government has stated a desire to be cautious when it comes to lifting sanctions on Burma, and yet its actions say just the opposite. In a period of less than two months, President Obama has removed virtually all sanctions on Burma mandated by the executive branch. “Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has warned against exactly this type of ‘reckless optimism.’ Representatives of ethnic national groups have pleaded for U.S. sanctions to remain in place. However, instead of listening to Burmese voices, the interests of industry lobbyists clamoring for access to Burma’s rich natural resources have been prioritized. “It is up to Congress to salvage what economic pressure remains on the regime by continuing the ban on the importation of goods made in Burma. Now more than ever it is critical that Congress renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act. “Business entities in many sectors of the economy, like oil and natural gas, are responsible for decades of human rights abuses. By lifting the investment ban the U.S. government is encouraging American companies to get into bed with some of the worst human rights offenders and risk becoming complicit themselves. “Adding insult to injury, the U.S. government has failed in its obligation to provide guidance to companies on how they can avoid human rights risks Burma. It has been over two years since the list of entities prohibited from U.S. business engagement has been revised. We demand an urgent update to the list of prohibited entities, known as the Specially Designated Nationals list, so that corporate actors looking to invest in Burma have the opportunity to make responsible decisions. Current and former military officials should be at the top of this list. We’ll continue working with allies of Burma in Congress to pressure the administration to take a more responsible course of action. We urge Congress to do what it can right now by renewing the current ban on imports, which is set to expire at the end of the month.” The Obama Administration’s decision comes despite months of warnings from human rights and investor groups that the removal of the investment ban and other sanctions are premature.
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