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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
US judges throw out Burma law

The US Supreme Court has thrown out a state law which attempted to restrict business with Burma, declaring that foreign policy is a job for the federal government.

The Massachusetts law limits state purchases from companies known to be trading with Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, because of its poor human rights record.

But judges in the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that individual states cannot play a role in foreign policy, and they threw the law out as unconstitutional.

"The state act is at odds with the president's intended authority to speak for the United States among the world's nations," Justice David H. Souter said.

It was up to the president, the judge said, to develop a comprehensive, multilateral strategy to bring democracy to and improve human rights practices and the quality of life in Burma.

Implications

The law was adopted in Massachusetts in 1996 after the military regime in Myanmar was accused of drug trafficking, torture and using slave labour.

The Supreme Court decision is seen as having far-reaching implications, as a number of other states and cities have similar laws involving Myanmar and other foreign nations.

The ruling represents a major victory for the Clinton administration, which said the state law interfered with the federal government's exclusive power to set foreign policy and regulate foreign commerce.

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See also:

27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suu Kyi demands power handover
28 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burmese forced labour condemned
27 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma warns opponents
20 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma clamps down on web
08 Aug 98 | Burma
Special report: Burma
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