For the past 15 years, American sanctions on Burma (also known as Myanmar) have prevented almost all American businesses from being complicit to massive human rights abuses and atrocities in the Southeast Asian nation.
Forced labor, systematic rape, child labor, extrajudicial killings, political prisoners and massive displacement have all been perpetrated by Burma's military regime. Just this month, a 48-year-old grandmother, "Ngwa Wi" (pseudonym), was held captive in a church by soldiers from Burma's military forces, who beat, stabbed and raped her repeatedly for three days.
Many abuses like this have been fueled or caused by foreign business in Burma and the soldiers who raped Ngwa Wi were working on a nearby foreign-owned dam project. But most American businesses have largely avoided such complicity in abuses like this because of the sanctions.
But this is all about to change. The Obama Administration announced on May 17 that it plans to suspend critical American sanctions on Burma, and let American companies do business in Burma without any oversight to prevent human rights abuses.
If American sanctions on Burma disappear, American-owned projects will fuel even more abuses like rape, murder, and even modern-day slavery -- and create thousands more Ngwa Wis. The Obama Administration is knowingly putting hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people at risk of losing their lives and their livelihood in exchange for American profits.
Please join me and many other human rights advocates from Burma in calling on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to suspend American sanctions on Burma without putting legally binding safeguards in place to prevent American business from fueling atrocities and abuses.
For more information on the kinds of abuses and attacks take place because of foreign business in Burma, see the recent work of the Kachin Women's Association documenting the abduction and rape of 48-year-old grandmother "Ngwa Wi" by Burmese soldiers working on a foreign-owned dam project in Kachin State.
Dear Secretary Clinton,
Forced labor, systematic rape, child labor, extrajudicial killings, political prisoners and massive displacement have all been perpetrated by Burma's military regime. Many of these abuses have been fueled or caused by foreign business in Burma – including American business, one of the reasons American sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation were put in place.
I'm calling on you not to suspend American sanctions on Burma without putting in place legally binding safeguards to ensure that American businesses don't become complicit in -- or fuel -- serious human rights violations in Burma. Safeguards requested by Burma's human rights advocates include:
-- Companies must be licensed by the Treasury Department before entering Burma;
-- Investment in extractive industries such as oil, natural gas, and mining are barred;
-- Bar projects that would require large-scale acquisitions of land, which lead to displacement and conflict in Burma; and
-- Add individuals and companies recommended by Burma's human rights defenders to the SDN list to prevent them from being able to profit from American business.
-The free, prior, informed consent of local communities
Just this month, Burmese soldiers abducted a 48-year-old grandmother in Kachin state near a Chinese-owned dam project they were working on. They beat, stabbed and raped her repeatedly until she became mentally unstable. Her name is "Ngwa Wi."
Please do not suspend sanctions without putting these legally binding safeguards in place, or the U.S. will have the suffering of innumerable more Ngwa Wis on its hands.