US Should Conclude Burma Policy Review: HRW

Irrawaddy news, 10th Sept 2009,

The United States should immediately conclude its Burma policy review and take initiatives to make its policies on diplomacy, sanctions and humanitarian assistance more successful, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a letter sent on Thursday to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

“Delays in announcing a new Burma policy could encourage Burmese military leaders to believe the US is weakening its commitment to human rights and pluralism,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director of New York-based HRW. 

“Although the situation in Burma seems intractable, an energetic and revitalized approach to Burma from the Obama administration could help bring positive change,” Adams said.  

HRW also urged the US government to lead the European Union, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada in a coordinated attempt to target key individuals such as Burmese generals, businessmen and civilians who are accountable for human rights abuses, and their business interests.

“The US has legal tools it is not yet using—for example, to deny foreign banks access to the US financial system if they are holding targeted Burmese accounts or otherwise undermining US measures, and going after transactions by the oil and gas authority, the key revenue-generating entity in Burma,” said Adams.

HRW said generalized sanctions on Burma that have had little or no impact and have not targeted policy-makers and human rights violators should be reconsidered and phased out at an appropriate time, said HRW.

Financial sanctions on individuals and entities, investment and trade sanctions, arms embargoes, restrictions on military assistance, and travel bans on individuals, should be tightened, HRW said.

In August, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley said at a State Department news conference: “We have an interest in seeing Burma stabilize. We have an interest in seeing Burma end its isolation.  How we do that is a subject of review.”

HRW also said the US should appoint its own special envoy on Burma, who would have a direct line to the secretary of state and specific instructions to engage in a principled way with the Burmese regime and key bilateral and multilateral actors.

Vigorous diplomacy is also specifically needed with China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan, according to HRW.

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