The United States says it will maintain tough new economic sanctions on Burma and will consider additional penalties if the country's human rights record does not improve.
The warning comes in a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of State, which labels Burma's human rights records "abysmal." According to the report, conditions deteriorated significantly in the six-month period it covers, from late arch to late September of this year.
That period included the May 30th arrest of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a clash between government upporters and members of her National League for Democracy. The report says the immediate U. . policy objective in Burma is to secure Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's release and to encourage a genuine dialogue on democratic political reform.
The report says until there is significant progress toward political transition, Washington will maintain its sanctions on Burma's military rulers and urge other governments to do the same. The report says the United States will consider additional sanctions if political prisoners are not released.
Current U.S. sanctions include bans on trade, new investment and financial services. In the report, U.S. officials acknowledge that some sanctions have had effects that are not desirable. It notes, for example, that 30,000 to 40,000 people lost jobs in Burma's garment industry -- forcing many young women to enter the sex trade.
The U.S. report says that in the past six months, there was no improvement in freedom of speech, press, assembly, association or travel in Burma. In addition to criticizing human rights abuses, the report concludes that Burma failed to keep its international agreements to curb drug trafficking.
The report urges Burma's neighbors, especially members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to use their influence to persuade the military government to address the country's problems.
Information for this report is provided by AFP.