By LALIT K JHA
WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama extended economic and other sanctions on the Burmese military regime for one more year as the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to begin on Monday.
Several US lawmakers had urged Obama to extend the sanctions this week, even as his administration was undertaking a policy on Burma.
The US president said that the authoritarian regime continued to be “engaging in large-scale repression of the democratic opposition.” The current sanctions, first imposed on Burma in 1997, were set to expire May 19.
In his message to Congress, Obama said the actions and policies of the junta are “hostile” to US interests and pose a continuing “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.
The extension of sanctions against the junta was welcomed by leading activist groups.
The move bars new US investment in Burma and was first put into place by President Clinton in 1997. In 2003 and 2007, the US Congress increased the sanctions by adding and then strengthening a ban on exports from Burma to the US. While there is no ban on tourism or exports to Burma, the sanctions are believed to have denied the military regime tens of billions of dollars per year.
“Now that President Obama has continued a wise policy from the United States, it is time for him to seize the moment and take action internationally,” said Jeremy Woodrum, director of the US Campaign for Burma.
“We hope he will immediately pursue a global arms embargo at the UN Security Council, as well as an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma's military regime,” he said.