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Archive for December 22nd, 2009

US could pressure Myanmar with bank sanctions

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US could pressure Myanmar with bank sanctions

The Associated Press ,  Washington   |  Tue, 12/22/2009 7:46 AM

The Obama administration has ready a powerful economic weapon if talks with Myanmar fail to achieve democratic reforms: pressuring banks to avoid doing business with the country’s ruling generals.

A similar approach has been used to push North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. In Myanmar’s case, targeting international banks could effectively tie up the large amounts of money the generals get from selling natural gas.

The U.S. Congress has already provided the power to go after the banks; some rights groups want President Barack Obama to use it soon, or at least if direct talks fail.

So far, however, the administration has been hesitant. It has just started face-to-face negotiations and wants to give them more time to show results. Imposing the banking sanctions would be expensive and time-consuming, and Myanmar isn’t a top priority on a crowded foreign policy agenda that includes Afghanistan and Iran.

Still, the administration has warned of tougher action if engagement breaks down with Myanmar, also known as Burma. And the mere threat could add force to the U.S. negotiating position.

“We will reserve the option of tightening sanctions on the regime and its supporters to respond to events in Burma,” Obama’s top diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, told lawmakers in September.

Myanmar has one of the most repressive governments in the world and has been controlled by the military since 1962. For years, the United States has used punishing sanctions to try to force change on the country, with little success. Former President George W. Bush’s administration favored shunning Myanmar, and Bush’s wife, Laura, and many in Congress were strong advocates of the nascent democracy movement there.

Now, the Obama administration has reversed the isolation policy in favor of engagement, which it hopes will persuade the generals to grant greater freedoms to opposition parties and minorities and to free political prisoners.

Myanmar has since made a few symbolic gestures of good will, letting detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meet with Campbell, for instance, and releasing some political prisoners. At the same time, it has continued to persecute ethnic minorities, journalists and student activists.

Obama himself spoke of a possibly stronger position on Myanmar in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. There will be engagement and diplomacy with Myanmar, he said, “but there must be consequences when those things fail.”

Activists say those consequences should include the application of a law that allows the United States to use financial measures to hinder Myanmar’s ability to access the international banking system.

“What the Burmese government values is not its commerce with the outside world but the financial proceeds of that commerce,” Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said. “Once the Burmese government deposits the checks in its bank accounts, there’s a lot the United States government can do to prevent that money from being used in the international banking system.”

The United States already imposes many sanctions on Myanmar. Treasury officials have targeted 40 people and 44 entities since the junta killed and arrested protesters during demonstrations in 2007. Being added to the sanctions list prevents people from making transactions in the banking system of the United States, the world’s largest economy.

A 2008 law, however, allows another level of sanctions that grants Treasury the authority to impose conditions on banking relationships. U.S. officials will not comment on future policy decisions, but Treasury says it is looking at all potential sanctions, including the banking provision, “to apply the tools best calibrated to address the threat presented.”

The United States cannot easily block the lucrative natural gas deals Myanmar does with its neighbors and with European and U.S. companies. But the bank measure would let foreign banks know that the United States has worries about their association with Myanmar money and will be wary of their contact with U.S. financial institutions until those worries are cleared up, according to Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

Supporters of the banking sanctions often raise North Korea, saying that the United States effectively froze the North out of the international banking system, hurting leader Kim Jong Il.

For the moment, the Obama administration is urging patience as it pursues talks.

Next year’s elections in Myanmar will provide a good look at the junta’s intentions. A big question will be whether high-level U.S.-Myanmar talks lead to the junta’s allowing true participation by minorities and opposition groups or merely let the generals consolidate power.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 22, 2009 at 7:32 am

World focus on Burma (22-12-2009)

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Chinese vice president meets Cambodian parliament leaders, stresses …

Xinhua – Fang Yang – ‎

… one-China policy no matter what happened. Cambodia is the last leg of Xi’s four-nation tour, which has also taken him to Japan, South Korea, and Myanmar.

Chinese company wins ownership of Myanmar-China pipeline project

Monsters and – ‎

Yangon – China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has secured exclusive ownership and management rights over a planned 771-kilometre, overland Myanmar-China …

Reaping What Children Sow

ISN – Julianne Geiger, Jen Alic – ‎

According to Hawkins, only twice so far has it supported boycotts: with Uzbek cotton and with products from Burma (Myanmar), where she said there was little …

China agrees $1.2bn in aid for economic development

Phnom Penh Post – Cheang Sokha – ‎‎

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An (right) welcome China’s Vice President Xi Jinping (second from left) to Phnom Penh on Monday ahead …

Obama has powerful tool to pressure Myanmar

The Associated Press – Foster Klug – ‎

Still, the administration has warned of tougher action if engagement breaks down with Myanmar, also known as Burma. And the mere threat could add force to …

Myanmar official media hail Chinese vice president’s visit

Xinhua – Lin Zhi – ‎

22 (Xinhua) — Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s official visit to Myanmar, which ended on Sunday, contributes a great deal to mutual friendship existing …

‘Rajiv changed Nehru’s foreign

Express Buzz – ‎‎

… India’s former high commissioner to Fiji and Myanmar (formerly Burma) and currently member, National Security Advisory Board, on Monday. …

Lian and Lin making Porirua home

The Dominion Post – Kris Dando – ‎

… junta that has controlled Burma (the military changed the country’s name to Myanmar in 1989 but refugees still call it Burma) – he fled his homeland, …

China, Cambodia agree to deepen cooperation

People’s Daily Online –

China will make joint efforts with Cambodia to achieve a win-win cooperation, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said Monday. Visiting Chinese Vice President …

Burma-China pipeline deal

Radio Australia News – ‎

Burma has given China a guarantee over the safety and ownership of an oil pipeline that will link the two countries. The assurance came during a visit by …

China, Cambodia leaders move to strengthen relations

China Daily – Lei Xiaoxun – ‎

During his earlier meeting on Sunday with Than Shwe, chairman of Myanmar’s State Peace and Development Council, Xi said he hoped Myanmar would improve …

Burma court to hear Suu Kyi arrest appeal

Irish Times – ‎

RANGOON – Burma’s supreme court has agreed to hear an appeal against the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was sentenced in August to …

‘US eco to slow down in ’10, needs more stimulus’

Times of India –

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says the US needs to prepare for a second stimulus package as there’s a “significant” chance growth will slow …

Movement In Burma?

Voice of America – ‎‎

Detained Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time in nearly a year was allowed to meet with elder members of her opposition political …

Chrysler Takes A Stand: Ad Supports Aung San Suu Kyi’s Release (blog) – Ethan Nichtern – ‎

Kudos to Chrysler for this taking this political stand in a commercial, supporting the release of Burmese elected president and awesome Buddhist lady Aung …

What now for Ethiopia’s “Aung San Suu Kyi”?

Ethiopian Review – Barry Malone – ‎‎

The first time I interviewed Birtukan Mideksa I was struck by how careful she was not to say the wrong thing. …

Centre approves 100-km highway project in Mizoram

Business Standard – Supratim Dey – ‎

The new highway will connect Lawngtalai in southern Mizoram to Myanmar border and will provide linkage to the proposed Kaladan project. …

Deal signals energy security

Shanghai Daily – ‎

In a statement on its Website, CNPC said it signed the deal with Myanmar’s Energy Ministry to grant the operating concession to CNPC controlled Southeast …

POLITICS: Nobel Laureate’s Burma Visit: ‘Moment of Hope’?

Inter Press Service – Jude Chan – ‎

… approach that has seen ESCAP make some headway toward improving the economic conditions of the rural poor in Burma, also known as Myanmar. …

Myanmar Court to hear Suu Kyi’s appeal

All India Radio – ‎‎

The Supreme Court in Myanmar has agreed to a request from the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to hear an appeal against her latest detention. …

Myanmar bomb blamed on Karen separatists – ‎‎

The Democracy for Burma Web site report also quotes Myanmar political analyst Aung Naing Oo saying that the KNU had been involved in bombings in the past, …

Xi concludes Burma visit with handful of MoUs – ‎‎

“The agreement also stipulates that Myanmar [Burma] government shall ensure the company’s ownership and exclusionary right to the pipeline and guarantee the …

Stiglitz: US Economy May Contract in the Second Half of Next Year

Wall Street Pit (blog) – ‎

By editor|Dec 21, 2009, 10:34 AM|Author’s Website Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz warns that there’s a “significant” chance the US economy will …

Detained Burmese-American thrown into dog-cell – Myint Maung – ‎‎

The junta’s mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper accused the Burmese-American of having entered Burma eight times in the past and instigating public …

Burmese court to review Suu Kyi detention – Matthew Champion – ‎‎

Burma’s highest court has agreed to hear an appeal against the continued detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel peace prize winner was …

Myanmar’s SC agrees to review Suu Kyi’s appeal

Press Trust of India –

Yangon, Dec 21 (PTI) Myanmar’s Supreme Court today agreed to review the latest house arrest extension of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, …

Court accepts Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal –

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal against her sentence, by a district …

PoliticalMyanmar Court Agrees To Hear Suu Kyi’s Appeal Against Detention – ‎

(RTTNews) – The Supreme Court in Myanmar agreed Monday to hear an appeal against the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, …

Suu Kyi to appeal Myanmar detention – ‎

Myanmar’s supreme court is to hear an appeal against the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s opposition leader, after she was sentenced to a …

Burma to review Aung San Suu Kyi sentence

BBC News – Rachel Harvey

The Supreme Court in Burma has agreed to a request from the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to hear an appeal against her latest detention. …

Advising army generals on economics – ‎‎

And therefore human resources in Myanmar [Burma] will have to be strengthened. But at the same time to get out of poverty one has to invest in skill …

China gets first opening to Bay of Bengal

Press Trust of India – ‎‎

Beijing, Dec 21 (PTI) Military-ruled Myanmar has given exclusive rights to Chinese oil conglomerate CNPC to build and operate a strategic crude oil pipeline …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 22, 2009 at 6:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized