|New Role for Americans to Promote Human Rights in Burma|
On Wednesday, President Obama lifted the ban on U.S. investment in Burma without putting any safeguards in place. President Obama ignored the advice of the human rights community, who implored his Administration to ensure only responsible investment was permitted and human rights were respected. For the first time since 1997, U.S companies will now be allowed to do business in Burma, including with Burmese government owned businesses, an actual requirement all foreign companies are subjected to by the Burmese government.
What this means for human rights in Burma and your role in promoting human rights and democracy for the people of Burma.
A) Sanctions against the Burmese regime and its cronies are leverage to push for democracy and human rights. By lifting the investment ban, the United States loses leverage to bring about more reform, while the people of Burma are still suffering human rights abuses and mass atrocities at the hands of the Burmese regime. There is now only one sanction left–the import ban–which must be renewed by Congress before the end of July. Call your Senators to support the renewal of the import ban.
Burma’s military still commits heinous human rights abuses against Burma’s ethnic civilians, particularly in Kachin State, where their military won't allow international humanitarian aid into the region. The Burmese regime refuses to admit there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind bars. In an extremely worrying move, President Thein Sein told the UN on Wednesday, he wants the Rohingya put in camps or deported, a request the UN immediately refused. Something must be done to end these abuses!
We must send a strong signal that real reform respects human rights, not profits. The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act is the ONLY influence the United States has left to pressure the Burmese regime to move forward with genuine democratic change.
B) Investment without safeguards will contribute to human rights abuses and profits for the Burmese military. More and more farms have been confiscated and some farmers have been arrested for refusing to leave their land. In addition to the most egregious human rights abuses in conflict zones, throughout the country the regime carries out forced labor, forced relocation, extortion, land confiscation and burning of civilians’ crops and farms, some of it in the name of making way for foreign investment. American Oil and Gas companies are now allowed to partner with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a Burmese government company who generates billions of dollars in profits for the Burmese military. The money our corporations will invest can fuel this murderous machine. For a more detailed explanation of the dangers of investment without safeguards, check out our blog, the LA Times and IPS.
In the months ahead, as American companies enter Burma, we will need our supporters, like you, to help ensure their activities and investments do not involve land confiscation, human rights abuses and money to those who obstruct political reform and commit human rights abuses.
The people of Burma will need our help—will you speak out to for the people of Burma? Right now, you have the power to keep the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (S.J.RES 43) in place by calling your Senators to cosponsor the bill, but time is running out. The bill expires in less than 3 weeks, you have to call your Senators now!
Click here for calling instruction, congressional scorecards to check where your Senators stand and the background of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.
Thank you for speaking out for the people of Burma.
Myra and USCB team