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Dozens of Buddhist Monks to Attend U.S. Senate Burma Hearing (click to view PDF)

Burmese Monks in Exile Harshly Critical of U.S. Senator Jim Webb, Written Testimony Attached

U.S. Campaign for Burma- Press Release
September 30th, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 234 8022 (or) (202) 246 7924

(Washington, DC) In a sign of protest against U.S. Senator Jim Webb, dozens of Buddhist monks will attend a hearing on U.S. Burma policy that will be chaired by Webb in the Senate on Wednesday, September 30th at 2:30 pm in room #419 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Webb was recently defeated in his drive to unilaterally lift U.S. sanctions on Burma’s military regime, after the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States would maintain sanctions on Burma unless the country’s military regime made concrete steps toward democracy.

Webb has been harshly criticized by Burma’s Buddhist monks, who led the country’s 2007 Saffron Revolution in which hundreds of thousands of Burmese monks and everyday citizens organized major demonstrations calling for an end to military rule in the country. Webb has been dismissive of the monks, despite their integral role in Burmese society, flippantly referring to monks who led the Saffron Revolution as a “throng” in his book “A Time to Fight”.

Prominent Buddhist Monk Ashin Pinyar Zawta, responding to Webb in the Huffington Post, called Webb “extremely manipulative,” saying that “Luckily for the Burmese people, Webb is not the only US senator. Webb is now despised by the people of Burma. If he succeeds in achieving a shift in US policy to abandon sanctions, he will have secured his place in history as one of the most important supporters of Than Shwe’s military dictatorship.” Click here to read full op-ed.

The day after the hearing, popular music band U2 will host a major music concert in Webb’s home state of Virginia. At the event, grassroots activists will collect thousands of signatures on petitions calling for Webb to stop calling for the lifting of pressure on Burma’s military regime before achieving tangible results.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be fully supporting the calls of Burma’s Buddhist clergy instead of Webb, announcing through a policy review at the U.S. State Department that the United States will maintain sanctions on Burma while simultaneously opening a diplomatic dialogue with the regime.

Webb did not invite anyone from Burma’s democracy movement to testify at the Burma hearing — including no Buddhist monks or members of the political party of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. Webb exclusively invited participants who share his views on Burma, preventing a full discussion of policy options on the country. With great disappointment for the absence of monks or members of Burma’s democracy movement in the hearing, two prominent monk groups, International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) and All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) have submitted written testimonies to Senator Webb. Testimonies of Burmese monks in exile are attached.

Burma’s military regime is among the world’s most brutal dictators, locking up over 2,000 political prisoners while carrying out a scorched-earth war on ethnic minority civilians. A recent report by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Law Clinic found compelling evidence the regime is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Five leading judges that commissioned the report called for the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes in Burma, and cited earlier efforts to establish the International Criminal Tribunals on Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

Webb has repeatedly compared the situation in Burma to Vietnam, a comparison that has been criticized as incorrect and ill-informed by the monks and international observers.