Britain to step up sanctions against Myanmarese junta

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

London : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised to “step up” sanctions on Myanmar by blocking trade in items such as timber if the regime there does not show signs of change.

Support TwoCircles

“The Burmese regime is a repressive, illegal and undemocratic regime. Unless they change we will step up sanctions…our strategy is not only to push the regime to change but to offer to a new government support for economic development,” Brown told the British parliament Wednesday.

He, however, added that Britain is ready to invest in Myanmar if there is a move towards “reconciliation and democracy”.

Brown’s warning follows a call by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for India to join in efforts to persuade the Myanmarese junta to give up its reign of power.

In a jointly written article published in the International Herald Tribune this week, the two European leaders said China has directly supported UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s recent visit to Myanmar.

“Other neighbours – India and Thailand, for example – can also play a vital role in helping to build a better future for the people of Burma. It is clear that, for ASEAN in particular, turning a blind eye to such a repressive government would jeopardise the whole process of democratisation and development of this region and damages its credibility,” they said.

Existing EU sanctions already include a travel ban and asset freeze on specific individuals and a ban on commercial dealings with specific state companies with close ties to the regime.

On Monday the EU agreed to target those sectors from which the regime draws much of its revenue, including timber, precious metals and gems, and made clear that whether further measures are imposed will depend entirely on the regime’s willingness to allow genuine political progress in Myanmar.

“All the signs point to a regime which clearly feels under pressure. These new measures will help to maintain that pressure, by focusing on the business interests of the regime rather than the wider population,” Miliband and Kouchner said.