Friday, November 16, 2007

Canada Announces Tougher Sanctions Against Burma


Canada has just joined the ranks of the US and the EU in imposing tougher sanctions against Burma, barring exports to and imports from the dictatorship, as well as banning investments. The article on Canada's Special Economic Measures Act HERE.

A day after China and Russia told the United Nations Security Council that sanctions against Burma would be counterproductive, Canada, one of the strongest supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Burma, on Wednesday announced a series of tough sanctions against the Burmese junta.

Following the new sanctions, the Canadian government has imposed a ban on: all goods exported from Canada to Burma, with the exception of humanitarian goods; all goods imported from Burma into Canada; and any new investment in Burma by Canadian persons and companies.

The sanctions imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act, prohibits: the provision of Canadian financial services to and from Burma; the export of any technical data to Burma; Canadian-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Burma; and Burmese-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Canada or passing through Canada.

The Canadian government also announced a freeze on assets in Canada of any designated Burmese nationals connected with the Burmese government.

Announcing the sanctions, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier, said, “Tougher sanctions against Burma are the right thing to do. They are right on moral grounds. The regime in Burma is abhorrent to Canadian values.”

Only a day earlier, participating in a debate on the current situation in Burma at the UN, the Burmese ambassador had urged member nations not to impose sanctions while the Russian and Chinese ambassadors had said that the imposition of sanctions against the military regime could be counterproductive. However, countries such as Canada, Britain and the United States are taking a harder line with the Burmese regime. The US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, had said at the UN on Tuesday that sanctions do play an important role in pressure building.

“The strongest message has to be sent. Sanctions are the means by which we, not just Canada, but the international community, can best exert pressure against the junta," Bernier said in a speech at the Economic Club of Toronto after announcing the sanctions.

Earlier in the day, Bernier met about 20 Burmese dissident leaders, including monks, at the Toronto Burmese Buddhist Temple. This was the first interaction of its kind between the Canadian foreign minister and senior Burmese dissidents.

“We are very delighted with today’s visit by Hon Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs,” said Zaw Wai Kyaw, president of Burma Buddhist Association of ontario. He also expressed appreciation of the government’s efforts and support to achieve national reconciliation, religious freedom, democracy and human rights for the people of Burma.

“We are pleased to arrange this meeting between the minister Bernier and Burmese representatives,” said Tin Maung Htoo, Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma. “This is indeed an historic moment, not only the minister meeting with them, but also making an important policy statement.”