Reaction to Suu Kyi Verdict: EU Tightens Sanctions Against Burma

The decision to extend Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest has sparked outrage in Brussels. The EU has proposed "targeted measures" against the junta, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is calling for a worldwide ban on the sale of arms to the Asian country.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to a further 18 months under house arrest -- the European Union has responded by tightening sanctions against the political regime in Burma. The "restrictive measures" against the military regime will be reinforced, while those responsible for the verdict will face "additional targeted measures", the Swedish presidency of the EU said on Tuesday.

Victim of the regime: Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces a further 18 months under house arrest.
DPA

Victim of the regime: Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces a further 18 months under house arrest.

Suu Kyi must be released "immediately" and "unconditionally," it added.

European Commission President Josť Manuel Barroso called the extension of Suu Kyi's incarceration "unjustified and unacceptable on all accounts." He said that the verdict was not in Burma's national interest.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) said the ruling against the opposition party leader was "a backward step for human rights in Burma."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among those calling for a worldwide ban on the sale of arms to the regime. In a guest editorial published on SPIEGEL ONLINE, he called for determined action in the United Nations Security Council. He said the judgment left him "saddened and angry."

Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months incarceration, having been accused of breaking the conditions of her house arrest. On the instructions of the chief of the military regime in Burma, General Than Shwe, the initial three-year prison sentence was commuted to 18 months house arrest. That means the politician who has already spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest will remain incarcerated for the 2010 election. The trial has been been labelled a sham by leaders and commentators around the world.

In the past few years, the European Union has continually tightened sanctions against the military regime in Burma. In 1990, weapons exports to the country were banned and 1996 saw the first travel restrictions imposed on senior government officials, along with a ban on imports. One of the fundamental problems of the EU sanctions is that the volume of trade with Burma was never particularly big and the EU wants to avoid hurting the country's poor population. French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that sanctions needed to target sectors that the Burmese regime directlys profit from, such as the wood and ruby sector.

There are currently 500 regime leaders subject to travel restrictions, including some of their wives. Most of these have also had suspected EU bank accounts frozen. Moreover, there are further lists detailing various other restrictions. There are 1,207 companies in Burma from which no exotic woods or precious stones may be imported. And the delivery of machines is also forbidden. Some 90 businesses owned by leading officials in the military regime are blacklisted and may not obtain finance from foreign banks. Joint ventures with EU firms are also forbidden for these companies.

According to the EU Commission, the EU imported almost €300 million worth of goods -- mostly textiles -- from Burma in 2007. Exports to Burma totalled around €100 million.

ecb -- with wire reports

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