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U.S. Senate Approves Three Year-Extension of Sanctions on Burmese Military Regime While ASEAN Parliamentarians Call for the UN Security Council Action on Burma (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
July 26th, 2006
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum: (202) 223-0300

(Washington, DC) The U.S. Campaign for Burma today welcomed the decision of the United States Senate to extend import restriction imposed on Burma’s military junta in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. Senate Joint Resolution 38 (S.J. Res. 38), a resolution to extend the import restrictions contained in Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, for three more years was approved by a voice vote today on the Senate floor, two weeks after U.S. House of Representatives approved a similar resolution. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation into law soon.

The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act 2003 (BFDA) was sponsored by majority whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate and Congressmen Tom Lantos (DCA) and Peter King (R-NY) in the House. Both chambers almost unanimously adopted it in July 2003 after Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the democracy movement were brutally attacked by agents of the military junta. Scores of her party members were beaten to death and Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in prison and house arrest since that time. She is the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

The situation in Burma remains dire. Last week, the Burmese junta placed its members on alert, in what may be preparations to attack non-violent democracy activists.

Worse, problems stoked by the military junta continue to spill across the country’s borders. In addition to systematic and egregious human rights violations against its own citizens, the Burmese military regime has become a major exporter of heroine and illicit drugs, HIV/AIDS, severe infectious diseases and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Recently, 503 members of parliament from 34 countries collectively called for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and members of UN Security Council to act in Burma. Their call echoes similar requests from Nobel Peace Prize recipients and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Church World Service, Refugees International, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Also, the National League for Democracy, the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi that won 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma’s last election, has asked the Security Council to adopt a non-punitive, binding resolution on Burma.

Last week, ASEAN Parliamentarians from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Burma, along with fellow Parliamentarians from India, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and European Parliament gathered in Malaysia for a two day conference. They called unanimously for the ASEAN governments to suspend Burma’s membership and ask the United Nations Security Council to put Burma on its formal agenda. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, current Chairman of Standing Committee of ASEAN, acknowledged in his message to the Conference that it would be very difficult for ASEAN governments to ignore the views of their democratically-elected legislators.

US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice will participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum on July 29, together with foreign ministers from ASEAN, EU, China, Russia, South and North Korea, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and India and she is expected to press for change in Burma.

In December 2005 and May 2006, the United Nations Security Council held its first-ever briefings to discuss Burma. It was a tremendous step in the right direction in addressing Burma’s crisis, and came after former Czech President Vaclav Havel and South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu commissioned a groundbreaking report that concluded only action by the UN Security Council can help bring about genuine national reconciliation. After the second briefing in May 2006, the U.S. Government announced its intention to ask the Council to adopt a binding resolution on Burma.

“The extension of these sanctions is most welcome. Now is the time for the UN Security Council to get involved in Burma with a decisive course of action that combines diplomacy and pressure,” said Aung Din, a former political prisoner and policy director of the US Campaign for Burma.