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Bush Imposes New Sanctions On Myanmar

With first lady Laura Bush at his side President Bush makes a statement on Burma Sanctions, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
For the second time in two months, President Bush announced sanctions against Myanmar to punish the military-run government and its backers for the recent violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Mr. Bush ordered the Treasury Department Friday to freeze the financial assets of additional members of the repressive military junta. He also acted to tighten controls on U.S. exports to Myanmar, also known as Burma, and called on the governments of China and India to do more to pressure the government of the Southeast Asian nation.

"Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested," Mr. Bush said in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.

"Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demands to stop their vicious persecution."

Last month, tens of thousands of people turned out for rallies, which started as protests of sharp fuel increases and later snowballed into the largest show of government dissent in decades. The junta claims that 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on demonstrators to disperse them, but diplomats and dissidents say the death toll is likely much higher.

In response, the Bush administration froze the assets that individuals responsible for the crackdown have in U.S. banks or other financial institutions under U.S. jurisdiction. The administration also prohibited any U.S. citizens from doing business with the designated individuals. Among those targeted for the sanctions were the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and the No. 2 man in the military regime, Deputy Senior Gen. Maung Aye.

The crackdown also prompted first lady Laura Bush to make personal appeals for support for Myanmar citizens, saying the acts of violence "shame the military regime."

Mrs. Bush joined him as he announced his new sanctions.

The president said the Treasury Department has designated 11 more leaders of the junta for sanctions. Mr. Bush also issued a new executive order that designates an additional 12 individuals and entities for sanctions. The executive order grants the Treasury Department expanded authority to sanction individuals responsible for human rights abuses as well as public corruption as well as those who support and provide financial backing to them or the government of Burma.

"Burmese authorities claim they desire reconciliation. Well, they need to match those words with actions," Bush said.

The junta says it detained nearly 3,000 people in connection with the protests, that hundreds remain in custody and that it is still hunting for others. But the regime has released three prominent detainees, including the country's best-known comedian, as well as a popular actor and his wife.

On Thursday, the U.N. envoy to Myanmar said the country's military rulers could be offered incentives to move toward democratic reforms.

The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, said one approach could be a combination of strong encouragement of the authorities in Myanmar to do the right thing along with some incentives to say "the world is not there just to punish Myanmar."

Earlier this month, Gambari met with the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but he has so far failed to bring about a dialogue between the two sides.

The action taken by Treasury last month froze assets that the individuals targeted have in U.S. banks or other financial institutions under U.S. jurisdiction. The order also prohibited any U.S. citizens from doing business with the designated individuals. Among those targeted for the sanctions were the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, and the No. 2 man in the military regime, Deputy Senior Gen. Maung Aye.

Responding to the continued crackdown, the State Department also has designated more than three dozen additional government and military officials and their families ineligible to receive visas to travel to the United States.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush punished Myanmar for alleged "human trafficking," the forced labor and prostitution that the United States calls a modern-day form of slavery. The Bush administration determined that Myanmar is ineligible for U.S. aid for failing to meet the minimum standards of fighting trafficking or make significant efforts to do so.

Administration officials acknowledge that the U.S. measures will be less effective than they hope unless other regional powers, particularly China, join in, the Washington Post reported. During a question-and-answer session with business leaders in Rogers, Ark., this week, Mr. Bush said the best response to Burma's crackdown is "enormous international pressure to make it clear to the generals that they will be completely isolated and not accepted into the international community of nations."

He seemed frustrated that that has not happened, the Post reported. "We have sanctioned individuals within Burma and are considering additional sanctions," he said, according to the Post. "But sanctions don't mean anything if we're the only sanctioner. They just find safe haven somewhere else -- in trade, for example. And so it's a tough question, tough issue, and the United States must always confront these tyrannical situations."