US sanctions target gem industry

Aug 1, 2008 (DVB), The United States government has strengthened sanctions against the Burmese regime, particularly targeting the gem-mining industry, a valuable source of income for the junta.

The US Treasury announced on Wednesday it was designating a further ten companies controlled by the Burmese government and its officials, including those involved in the gem-mining industry.

President Bush also signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act on the same day extending sanctions against Burmese regime leaders, their families, and those providing financial or political support to the regime, including the gem industry.

Adam J. Szubin of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said the measures were intended to further clamp down on the junta's revenues.

"We are tightening financial sanctions against Burma's repressive junta and the companies that finance it," Szubin said.

"The regime's refusal to protect and allow relief to reach the Burmese people as Cyclone Nargis devastated their country is but another example of the regime's heartless neglect of its people."

National League for Democracy information officer U Nyan Win said the US government's continued strengthening of sanctions demonstrated the lack of political development in Burma.

"Firstly, I can see this is just the US continuing its existing sanctions on Burma, and this means there has been no progress achieved in Burma’s political situation," Nyan Win said.

"Secondly, I would like to make it clear the NLD is not going to say whether renewing the sanctions on Burma should be encouraged or not , in fact this is a decision that can only be made by the relevant government," he said.

"We see sanctions as a way to push for changes. Some people are now saying the sanctions won’t work but I think we should wait and see what the outcome will be."

Economist Khin Maung Nyo said that there had been little change in Burma so far as a result of the sanctions.

"It’s all about politics , the real intention behind sanctions on a country is to push its government to change their habits," Khin Maung Nyo said.

"But if you look at the situation, you can see the Burmese government has remained the same , without even any evidence to show that they were changing," he said.

"But as for [the international community], these sanctions are what they usually do , they have no other choices and also this is the easiest action for them to take."

Khin Maung Nyo was sceptical about how effective sanctions could be.

"They are only passing these sanctions to make themselves feel good, in a political way," he said.

"It’s easy to take this kind of action on a country like Burma but they couldn’t do it to China."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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