(Adds details, Bush comment)
WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - Ratcheting up sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, the U.S. Treasury said on Tuesday it moved to block assets and transactions by two government-controlled business conglomerates with operations from mining and gemstones to banking and construction.
The Treasury said it added the Union of Myanmar economic Holdings Ltd, (UMEH) and the Myanmar Economic Corp, along with their subsidiaries, to its sanctions list for providing support to a military regime that it says is “systematically oppressing the Burmese people.”
The United States is trying to pressure Myanmar’s leaders to accept democratic reforms after more than 40 years of military rule. The army held elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power despite being defeated by the National League for Democracy.
President George W. Bush on Tuesday signed legislation that extended sanctions and banned the import of gems from Myanmar.
“On the Burmese regime, our message is: the United States believes in democracy and freedom,” Bush told reporters before signing two laws.
The legislation bans the import of Myanmar rubies and jade, freezes assets of the military leaders and aims to stop the country, formerly known as Burma, from using U.S. financial institutions via third countries to launder funds of its leaders or close relatives.
The Treasury’s moves ban American individuals and businesses from transactions with the firms on its sanctions list and freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction. (Reporting by David Lawder and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Diane Craft)