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Activists Commend U.S. Congress for Maintaining Tough Measures on Burmese Military Junta (click to view PDF)

“Renewal of the sanctions against Burma’s military junta is a signal to the world that the U.S. Congress is not fooled by Burma’s generals’ attempt to legitimize its rule through the blatantly undemocratic sham national convention.”

For Immediate Release
June 24, 2007
Contact: Aung Din: (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC, June 24, 2007) U.S. Campaign for Burma, leading advocacy organization for democracy and human rights in Burma, today welcomes the unanimous approval of the U.S. Senate to maintain comprehensive economic sanctions on Burma with a vote of 93-1. Senate Resolution 16 (House Joint Resolution 44) approves the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. This resolution was introduced by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), along with over 60 Senators. An identical resolution, House Joint Resolution 44, introduced by California Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, who is now chairing the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, together with Congressman Peter King (R-NY), was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives yesterday. President Bush is expected to sign this measure into law soon.

“This is a strong message from the United States Congress that they are not happy with Burma’s military junta, which is ruling the country through force, threat, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killing. Burma’s military junta must know that the international community is outraged at its murderous behaviors which include using rape as weapon of war and forcing the country populations to be slave laborers”, says Jennifer Quigley, Advocacy Coordinator of the US Campaign for Burma, who played important role in organizing members of Congress to support this resolution. “Renewal of the sanctions against Burma’s military junta is a signal to the world that the U.S. Congress is not fooled by Burma’s generals’ attempt to legitimize its rule through the blatantly undemocratic sham national convention.”

In response to the brutal human rights abuses and mass atrocities in Burma, conducted by Burma’s military junta led by Senior General Than Shwe, and in support of Burma’s democracy activists, led by the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, the U.S. Congress adopted a set of strong and comprehensive economic sanctions on Burma in 2003 as stated in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act. Measures include a ban on imports from Burma, a ban of financial transactions between Burma and U.S. companies and persons, an arms embargo, visa restrictions against leaders and family members of the Burmese military regime, its affiliated business organizations and its ‘civilian’-arm the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and a “no” vote on loan and assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank, etc. Among these measures, import restrictions are required for Congressional review and approval for extension annually.

The Burmese military junta is one of the most brutal regimes in the world. It came to power in 1988 after killing as many as ten thousand peaceful demonstrators in the streets and putting thousands more in prisons. The United Nations system has adopted 29 resolutions from the UN General Assembly and the former UN Commission on Human Rights, calling for Burma’s generals to release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, allow all people to participate freely in shaping the country’s future, permit all political parties to function freely, stop all forms of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, lift all measures imposed on the UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations to be able to deliver assistance to the people in need, and commence a meaningful political dialogue with National League for Democracy party and ethnic representatives for national reconciliation and democratization. Burma’s military junta has ignored these requests and tried to avoid the international pressure under the protection of China and Russia, who supply weapons to the Burmese military in exchange for having natural gas and other national resources. With China and Russia’s protection, the regime has destroyed more than 3,000 villages in Eastern Burma leaving more than one million displaced and creating a humanitarian crisis. Today, the Burmese military junta sentenced six activists, from 4 to 8 years imprisonment for their attempt to conduct a human rights discussion in Oakpon Village, Henzada Township, in delta region in Burma.

US Campaign for Burma is organizing stronger international involvement in Burma to support Burma’s democracy activists, who have called for a meaningful political dialogue between the military junta, National League for Democracy party led by detained Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, and leaders of ethnic nationalities to discuss national reconciliation and democratization in Burma. To achieve increased international attention on the situation in Burma, USCB organizes celebrities to join in the campaign, bringing them to the Thai-Burma border to witness the refugees who are forced to flee the country because of atrocities conducted by the military. Currently, USCB Campaign Director Jeremy Woodrum is visiting refugee camps along Thai-Burma border with Walter Koenig, one of the actors of the Star Trek TV series.

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