/ 11 August 2009

EU to tighten sanctions after Suu Kyi conviction

The European Union said it would toughen its sanctions against Burma after Tuesday’s latest conviction of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

France and Britain called for global arms and economic embargoes.

Suu Kyi was sentenced on Tuesday to a further 18 months in detention after an American man breached the terms of her house arrest by swimming uninvited to her lakeside home in May.

Sweden said the EU would ”further reinforce its restrictive measures targeting the regime of Burma, including its economic interests”, but gave no further details.

”The proceedings against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on charges that were brought 20 years after she was first wrongfully arrested, have been in breach of national and international law,” it said, demanding her immediate and unconditional release.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the verdict was a political step by the military rulers of Burma to prevent Suu Kyi taking part in elections next year.

”The Burmese authorities have shown with this iniquitous ruling their decision to ignore pressing messages from the international community,” Sarkozy’s office said in a statement.

”The president asks the European Union to react rapidly by adopting new sanctions against the Burmese regime, which should particularly target the resources that it profits directly from — wood and ruby mining.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said there should be a global embargo on arms sales to Burma and a ”robust mechanism” to keep track of wood and ruby exports.

The EU has long prohibited any transfer of arms from the bloc to Burma, or equipment that might be used for internal repression.

After a crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September 2007, it targeted 1 207 Burma firms with measures including visa bans and asset freezes.

It also maintains a visa ban and asset freezes on members of the military government and its backers.

Brown said in a statement he was ”saddened and angry” at the ”monstrous” verdict.

”The facade of [Suu Kyi’s] prosecution is made more monstrous because its real objective is to sever her bond with the people for whom she is a beacon of hope and resistance,” he said, calling for the United Nations Security Council to impose a worldwide ban on arms sales to Burma. — Reuters