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Burma Loses a Hero (click to view PDF)

US Campaign for Burma
February 12, 2008

Yesterday, the people of Burma lost one of their greatest champions. Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, passed away due to complications from cancer. It is with deep sadness at his passing that we reflect on what Congressman Lantos has done to further our shared commitment to democracy and human rights
for the people of Burma. Throughout his tenure as a Congressman, Tom Lantos was an outspoken advocate for the persecuted and oppressed people of the world, and the people of Burma were no exception.

Through Tom Lantos unrelenting and passionate leadership on behalf of the people of Burma in Congress, we came to see Lantos as the true embodiment of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s request to the world “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” Congressman Lantos worked tirelessly over his career to strengthen U.S. support for democracy and human rights in Burma. Most notably, Lantos authored the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which imposed sanctions on Burma’s military regime, and the Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s AntiDemocratic Efforts) Act of 2007, which expanded targeted sanctions on the regime.

“The U.S. Congress will not watch silently as the democratic will of the people of Burma is thwarted,” Lantos said in December 2007 after the House of Representatives overwhelming approved his Block Burmese JADE Act and voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. With the passage of several recent pieces of legislation, we have made crystal clear that the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese people as they continue their struggle for freedom and democracy.

What Lantos has done for the people of Burma will continue on. His spirit and passion, as well as determination, to realize democracy and human rights in Burma will live on in our hearts and in our work.

Congressman Lantos once said, “Aung San Suu Kyi remains imprisoned. So do the people of Burma. Even out of power and out of sight, she remains a symbol and therefore a leader of the plight of some 50 million people in her native land of Burma. We must do our part to carry her torch.” Much of the same is true of Tom Lantos; even though he has passed away, he remains a symbol of the power we have to help end the plight of the people of Burma.

We have all been honored to have had Tom Lantos on our side. His passion and dedication to democracy and human rights for the people of Burma was unwavering. While we have not yet realized our shared dream, we know we are closer to achieving this vision because of Congressman Tom Lantos.