WASHINGTON – President Bush ratcheted up pressure on the military junta in Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Friday with a new round of sanctions in response to its violent crackdown on democracy protests and a call to China, India and other powers to help force the ruling generals to “stop their vicious persecution.”
“The people of Burma are showing great courage in the face of immense repression,” Bush said in a statement televised live from the White House as first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked on. “They are appealing for our help. We must not turn a deaf ear to their cries.”
The president directed the government to freeze any U.S.-controlled assets held by 11 senior Myanmarese officials, and he widened the net with an executive order expanding sanctions to those who assist such officials or the Myanmar government, starting with 12 individuals and entities. He also ordered tighter restrictions on the export of goods such as high-performance computers to Myanmar.
Bush’s action followed sanctions he imposed last month amid widespread demonstrations against the military government, which has controlled Myanmar for decades. Led by barefoot monks in saffron robes, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets in Rangoon until government forces moved in with clubs, tear gas and rifles, opening fire. The government said 10 people were killed and 3,000 arrested, with 500 still in custody.
Myanmar has been a top cause of Laura Bush, who has assumed a high profile rallying world leaders through public statements, interviews and phone calls with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. By announcing a second round of sanctions with the first lady at his side, the president seemed to signal to the leadership in Myanmar that he does not plan to let up. He threatened to impose more sanctions if Myanmar does not respond.