UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush announced new U.S. sanctions against Myanmar’s military rulers on Tuesday and urged other countries to follow suit amid Myanmar’s biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.
“The United States will tighten economic sanctions on the leaders of the regime and their financial backers,” Bush said in his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly.
“We will impose an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights,” he added, declaring that Americans were “outraged” by rights abuses in Myanmar.
Bush’s announcement came after 10,000 monks marched through the heart of Myanmar’s main city on Tuesday in defiance of a threat by the ruling generals to send in troops to end the anti-junta demonstrations.
Accusing Myanmar’s military government of a “19-year reign of fear,” Bush said, “Basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship are severely restricted. Ethnic minorities are persecuted. Forced child labour, human trafficking and rape are common.”
He urged “the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.”
Bush said new U.S. sanctions were intended “to help bring peaceful change to Burma,” referring to the country by its previous name.
What began as anger at sudden steep fuel price rises last month has become a wider movement against Myanmar’s generals.
The Security Council, however, has been divided about action against Myanmar. In January, China and Russia vetoed a resolution calling for Myanmar to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups and take concrete steps toward democracy.
They argued the council was exceeding its mandate by involving itself in a human rights issue handled by other bodies.