Written by U Ne Oo on 1998-05-08

In the State of Massachusetts, USA, a corporate-funded body, National Foreign Trade Council(NFTC), has recently filed a Lawsuit against Burma selective purchasing law. The NFTC has bw. The NFTC has been challenging the constitutional validity of the Massachusetts Burma Law, it has been reported.


Regarding sanction for Burma, there are selective purchasing laws enacted by various States and Counties throughout United States. In addition, there has been Burma Sanction Bill enacted by the federal Government of the United States. As the present situation stands, there has been a possibility of US Government lifting sanction "on the condition" that the dialogues the dialogues in Burma started. In this context, we need to recognize that the political opportunism of NFTC pressuring upon the Massachusetts Burma Law.


In USA, selective purchasing laws in particular have been effective - much more than the federal sanction laws - in bringing about pressures on the businesses that dealing with dictatorial regimes. It also appears that, from activists point of view, such local sanction campaigns are more feasible and have a greater feeling of impactling of impact because of the campaigns' local focus. For example, a local activist can simply walk into the Mayor or Govenor's office and then request to enact such legislation: there is no means to do such action at the federal level. It is also much easier to mobilise the grassroots support for such campaign. It is of no doubt that these campaigns have served to promote greater awareness about Burma amongst the local population.


The question of constitutional validity for sul validity for such law appears to be quite complex and the outcome of the Lawsuit may not be known for quite some times. However, from our part, a parallel legislative move can be made at the federal level to maintain pressure on Burmese regime.

The current dispute is being portrayed as the contest for power between State and Federal legislatures. In my personal view, the activists have made initiatives at the local level because of the frustration about federal sanctions. It may be about the right time to revise(amend) th to revise(amend) the federal sanction bill in accordance with new developments in Burma. Such revision should also be made with a careful balance between the business interests of the United States and the progress for democracy in Burma.

Firstly, the legislation should prohibit the US companies dealing with illegal entities in Burma - specifically SLORC/SPDC. No prohibition should be made to companies if they go through the elected representatives, i.e. Executive Committee of National League for Democracy. Such legislative measuslative measures on companies will be consistent with the 1997 UN General Assembly Resolution on Burma.

Secondly, the legislation should introduce the code of practice for US companies that may be operating in Burma. In particular, the greater scrutiny against the use of forced labour, monitoring about environmental guidelines, safeguards against corruption etc. must be included in the code of practice.


I shall be supportive and most appreciative if any group or individuals in US individuals in USA to begin lobbying to Senators/Representatives regarding the proposed revision(amendment) to the federal Burma sanction bill. Since I reside in Australia, I cannot lobby those US Senators/Representatives effectively -- though I could perhaps write letters to State Department and Senate Foreign Relation Committee. The initiative for such legislation has to come from our friends who live in USA.

More importantly, our friends in Massachusetts deserve our supports - lets continue focussing on the situation in Massachusetts.

With best regards, U Ne Oo.

Time to Rally behind Massachusetts