Switzerland tightens Myanmar sanctions

A demonstrator protests outside the Myanmar embassy in Tokyo Keystone

Switzerland has tightened sanctions against Myanmar because of the "precarious human rights situation" in the southeast Asian country.

This content was published on June 28, 2006

The decision, announced by cabinet on Wednesday, brings Swiss policy into line with the European Union, which introduced harsher measures in April.

On Thursday, the ban on weapons exports and "instruments of repression" was extended to include any services related to these or any other military activities in Myanmar.

Financial sanctions are no longer limited to the freezing of funds belonging to members of Myanmar's military regime and the blocking of transactions.

They have been extended to include all "assets". The list of government members and their relatives affected by the sanctions has been increased from 270 to 392.

Swiss firms will henceforth be forbidden from taking stakes in 39 state-controlled enterprises or from issuing credit. However, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said this did not amount to a general ban on investing in Myanmar, since existing contracts would not be affected.

Roland Vock, head of Seco's sanctions department, told swissinfo that the Swiss government was taking action now because Switzerland could not afford to be out of step with the EU.

"Switzerland does not want to become a safe haven for funds which have been frozen according to EU sanctions," Vock said.

He said the issue of human rights violations was of continued concern for the government, especially after the Myanmar authorities extended the house arrest of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, last month.

Systematic violations

Switzerland bases its policy on resolutions adopted each year by the United Nations General Assembly and its human rights body which have voiced their serious concern on systematic violations in the southeast Asian state.

Also in line with the EU, the Swiss cabinet announced sanctions against Belarus.

It said it would freeze funds and impose a travel ban on members of the Belarus government in reaction to "the breach of constitutional principles in the presidential elections" last March.

Switzerland stopped financial aid to Belarus ten years ago due to the infringement of constitutional principles.

It called on Belarus to respect its international commitments regarding human rights and basic freedoms.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Current Myanmar sanctions:

Ban on export, sales, and passage in transit of military goods and instruments of repression.
Ban on granting of services of any kind relating to the above, as well as military activities in Myanmar.
Freezing of funds and economic assets of 270 members of Myanmar's military regime and relatives.
Ban on travel to or transiting through Switzerland for any of the people on the list mentioned above.
Ban on giving credit to, or investing in, state-controlled companies.

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