BURMESE FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2003
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Senate is going to do something important later this morning; that is, send a message to Burma that we don't intend to do business with them any longer. In addition to that, this Freedom and Democracy Act, which will pass the Senate later this morning and go down to the President for signature, will guarantee that we have another debate in each of the next 3 years very similar to the MFN China issue with which we are all familiar where the issue came back before the Senate with an expedited procedure once a year.
This is not the last time we will be dealing with the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, and certainly it will not be the last time we deal with Burma until the legitimately elected leader of that country is not only out of prison but in power.
I thank my colleagues in both the Senate and House for acting quickly on the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The 418-2 vote in the House yesterday complements the 97-1 vote we had on a very similar bill in the Senate on June 11.
The message from the United States Congress to the world could not be more clearthe assault on freedom in Burma will not stand.
With the cooperation and support of my colleagues in the Senate, the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will shortly be on its way to the White House for signature by the President.
When the people of Burma needed support in their struggle for freedom, America actedand acted decisively.
Unfortunately, there has been no change in the situation in Burma since this measure was first introduced.
It is an outrage and a violation of human decency that democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other democrats continue to be held by the thugs calling themselves the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Instead of giving the world access to Suu Kyi, Burmese strongman General Than Shwe has dispatched his minions to regional capitals on a misinformation campaign laying blame for the May 30 ambush on Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Few should be duped by this desperate measure, and an import ban and other sanctions against Burma cannot come soon enough.
More must be done to support the struggle of freedom in Burma. It is past time that neighborsespecially Thailand and Chinatake off their blinders to the multitude of dangers posed by Burma to the region. We already know that HIV/AIDS and drug use unravels the social and economic fabric of bordering countries, and engagement with the SPDC serves only to further perpetuate lawlessness in Burma that threatens peace and stability, not just in Burma but throughout all of southeast Asia.
The United Nations has a role to play in creating a unified front against the regime. The Security Council should be briefed by U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail on the situation in Burma, and further action by that body should be contemplated.
However, words of condemnation are not enough. While I was pleased to meet with Razali when he was in Washington last week, frankly, his time is better spent in Asia shuttling between capitals and marshaling support for the release of Suu Kyi and other democrats and for the recognition of the results of the 1990 elections which have never been honored. Suu Kyi and her party got 80 percent of the vote but were never allowed to take power, and she has been under house arrest for most of the last 3 years.
America's leadership is as important as it can possibly be. By signing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, President Bush will clearly signal that the United States stands by the Burmese people in their hour of need. Our allies should take note of the import ban and other measures contained in the act and immediately follow suit.
The only way this is going to work is on a multilateral basis. It worked in South Africa. Generally, I am skeptical of these kinds of import bans. But there was one conspicuous example of where it worked, and that was in South Africa. The reason it did was because everybody cooperated. We are calling on the international community to isolate these thugs and not do business with them.
Change will come in Burma only if the free world has the collective will to hold the SPDC accountable for its brutality.
Some may continue to beat the ragged drum of engagement, but dialog is as dead as those the SPDC murdered on May 30. It is folly to think engagement will "encourage positive changes" within the SPDC. This tiger will never change its stripes. For over a decade, engagement has been tried. While the junta has made hollow promises of "reconciliation" with the NLD and ethnic nationalities, general Than Shwe has no intentions of relinquishing power on his own. He must be pressured by the world into doing so.
It is not enough for envoys and diplomats to meet with Than Shwe's underlings and other senior SPDC leaders in Rangoon. Than Shwe's grip in Burma is no less than Saddam Hussein's was in Iraq. If Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian nations are to have an impact on the situation, they must deal directly with Burma's top thug.
Let me be clear. Than Shwe is personally responsible for the May 30 murders and subsequent injury and arrest of countless Burmese democracy activists. He is responsible for the ongoing and systemic egregious human rights abuses perpetuated upon the ethnic nationalities in that country.
The fact that no outsider has seen Suu Kyi since Razali's brief meeting in early June should be a cause for alarm.
We need to know exactly where she is being held and the state of her physical condition. No one has time for peek-a-boo games the junta may be interested in playing.
Suu Kyi must be immediately and unconditionally released, along with all other democrats whose only crime is advocating democracy and the rule of law.
With the passage of this act, our work on this issue is hardly over. The people of Burma can count on America's continued support for the struggle for freedom in their country. I intend to seize every opportunity to advance this cause both in Washington and abroad.
And I know that I can count on many of my colleagues to do the same. I particularly want to thank Senators FEINSTEIN and MCCAIN, who are no less outraged than I at the horrific abuses of the SPDC and the continued detention of Suu Kyi and other Burmese democrats. On the House side, Congressmen LANTOS, KING, and HYDE were equally energetic in responding to this crisis. Burma has no better friends than these freedom-loving Americans.
Democracy and the rule of law will prevail in Burma. As we near this historic vote this morning, I am reminded of the Reverend Martin Luther King's observation that the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." This morning, we must commit ourselves never to tire in the pursuit of justice in long-suffering Burma until Suu Kyi is free and the struggle for freedom won.
Suu Kyi has kindled the flame of freedom in the hearts and minds of her compatriots. America must ensure that it is never extinguished.
Let me close by saying that the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would not have moved so swiftly through the Congress were it not for the efforts of Senator Feinstein and particularly Senator McCain. Senators LUGAR and BIDEN of the Foreign Relations Committee gave this legislation an opportunity to move quickly. They could have insisted on it going to Foreign Relations. They did not. Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus had very useful suggestions to make in terms of the form of the final bill. And my colleague Senator Leahy also played an integral part.
Over in the House, Congressmen LANTOS, DELAY, THOMAS, HYDE, and KING were all instrumental in securing swift passage of the act.
In terms of staff, I just want to mention my crew who were involved: Billy Piper, my chief of staff; Brian Lewis, who is my counsel on the Senate floor; Robert Karem; and Paul Grove, a longtime friend and associate, who is the staff director of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, who has had an intense interest in this issue for a long time.
I give special thanks and recognition to my former staffer who used to have Paul Groves' job, Robin Cleveland, who is now Assistant OMB Director in the Bush administration, who, 10 years ago, sparked my interest in this whole issue. It is hard to believe it has been 10 years, but, unfortunately, not much has changed in Burma. Ten years of the status quo is completely unacceptable. The Burmese people have a friend in Robin Cleveland.
Finally, I thank those in the NGO community for their tireless efforts in support of Burma. There are a lot of very committed activists in the United States who also travel to the area who are intensely interested in this issue and who will never give up until Suu Kyi has an opportunity to be free not only of prison but free to assume the power that she and her supporters earned in the free elections back in 1990.
Mr. President, I know Senator McCain wants to speak. How much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority has 19 minutes 5 seconds.
Mr. McCONNELL. I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask unanimous consent that the time be charged equally to both sides.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I do want to make a few further observations related to Thailand, Burma's neighbor, and their policy toward Burma.
When Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in Washington last week, we had an opportunity to discuss the situation in Burma and Thai policy toward the repressive regime. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seemed to indicate that Thailand would not change its policy of engagement with the SPDC. I know the President brought it up with him as well because the President told me he brought the matter up with the Thais as well when he met the Thai Prime Minister. If we look at Thailand today, we can see the benefits of this policy they have been following.
Drug abuse has spun wildly out of control, causing His Majesty the King of Thailand to publicly comment on the threats to his beloved country from narcotics trafficking and abuse. With this abuse has come HIV/AIDS, crime and destitution.
Where do these drugs come from? Why, they come from Burma, of course.
Thailand today is home to countless innocent people seeking sanctuary from gross human rights violations and the denial of even the most basic of freedoms. Thailand's response has been less than compassionate, with many of these men, women, and children detained and deported back to their homeland, and others denied access to humanitarian assistance.
Where do the refugees have to return? Why, Burma, of course.
Tensions along the Thai-Burma border have periodically spilled over into skirmishes between Thai soldiers and those of the SPDC. Burmese investment in armaments, including MiG aircraft purchased from Russia, pose an immediate danger to the entire region.
What is the source of this instability? Burma.
The Thai Prime Minister should have departed the United States with a firm understanding that protection of freedom in Burma was a top priority for both Congress and the administration.
Unfortunately, I do not think he got the message.
I understand that on July 31 and August 1 a meeting will be held in Bangkok between Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma to discuss economic cooperation strategies. Prime Minister Shinawatra should take note of the vote we are about to cast and reconsider hosting this meeting.
Instead of promoting economic cooperation strategies, Thailand should be working to free Aung San Suu Kyi and other democrats being detained by the SPDC. Democrats should help democrats during times of duress.
I will have more to say about Thailand at a later date, but we should have a right to expect more from the Thais who have been one of our strongest allies in that region over the years.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask unanimous consent that the time be charged equally to both sides.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, first, I thank Senator McConnell for his leadership on this issue, not only now as we are in an incredibly critical moment in time in the history of the struggle of the Burmese people for freedom, but for his longstanding advocacy in this noble cause and his commitment to the security and safety of one of the heroic figures of the 20th and 21st centuries, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Again, I thank him for not only motivating this body to rapid passage of this legislation but to his work with the other body which has resulted in us being able to pass it overwhelmingly today. I thank Senator McConnell again, and I regret to say we are a long way from seeing a resolution of this terrible unfolding, unending tragedy taking place in Burma. I guess as a personal pique, I refuse to call it Muanmar, which the junta have changed the name to, and we have a lot more to do. But I believe what we are doing today, because of his sponsorship, will send a message throughout Burma that we have not abandoned this heroic woman, nor have we abandoned the cause of democracy and freedom in this country of gentle people who deserve a great deal better than the group of thugs who have been oppressing them and repressing them for a long period of time.
It has been almost 7 weeks since Burma's military junta orchestrated a savage attack on Burma's democrats and their leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In response Congress acted with extraordinary speed and consensus to send to the President's desk the bill before us banning imports from Burma. It is imperative that he sign it immediately, as I am confident he will.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people can't wait, nor should Burma's rulers and neighbors wait a day longer to hear the United States speak with one voice in support of freedom in Burma. Congressional action on this bill is nearing completion, but as the Senator from Kentucky has said, our commitment to Burma's people will not end until they are free. Our resolve will not weaken as long as the junta denies the Burmese people a right to live in a nation ruled by law, not fear, led by the elected leader whose appeal no amount of violence can diminish and whose courage no amount of suffering can dim.
It is now time for Burma's leaders, especially the frontline states, to join the United States and Europe in rejecting half measures and implementing a fundamentally new approach that looks forward to Burma's liberation rather than a mere moderation of an illegitimate regime's rule. Southeast Asia will not be stable or secure as long as the generals rule in Rangoon. Placing hope in a policy of reconciliation that relies more on the junta's goodwill than on international pressure for democratic change will do nothing to alter a status quo that upholds tyranny.
China, India, and Thailand directly suffer the effects of regional insecurity caused by AIDS, drugs, and refugees that flow across Burma's borders. They also suffer the economic consequences of living next to a bankrupt nation whose economy is controlled largely by drug lords and a corrupt military elite. While China may not be troubled by dictatorship in Burma, it would clearly benefit economically from having another Asian tiger on its borders which good government and Burma's natural wealth would make it.
Democratic India would benefit strategically and economically from a fellow democracy in Rangoon that could expand Indian influence in Southeast Asia and serve as a significant trading partner.
We expect more in particular from our ally Thailand which has done little of substance to support change in Burma since the May 30 attacks. As far as I am concerned, business as usual won't cut it. We frankly expect a democratic ally such as Thailand to do more to oppose dictatorship in Burma, both out of principle and because of the insecurity its misrule brings to Thailand. We will be watching for signs of a new policy approach in Bangkok. This will be an issue in our bilateral relationship.
We welcome Japan's announcement of suspending new assistance to Burma as a result of the junta's crackdown. But Tokyo's existing aid programs send a mixed signal to the democrats who were so heartened by popular protests on their behalf in the streets of Tokyo. We would welcome the Government of Japan's reassessment of its entire policy toward Burma.
All of us appreciated ASEAN's joint statement calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's early release at the Phnom Penh summit, breaking with the group's history of noninterference in each other's affairs. But friends of ASEAN want to see it take concrete steps to prove its relevance to security and stability in Southeast Asia.
I remind my colleagues that when ASEAN admitted Burma into ASEAN, it was with the promise and commitment that things would improve in Burma. No one can argue that there has been anything but retrogression and an increase in brutality and, of course, the latest outrage in the capture and mistreatment of their freely elected leader.
Events in Burma are testing ASEAN as never before. Burma's crisis impacts every nation in the region, from AIDS, drugs, and refugees to political and economic instability. Those of us who want ASEAN to succeed expect it to play a leadership role in its own backyard and to deliver on its promises in 1997 that membership would change Burma. Some of us weren't convinced then and we are not convinced today. Burma will soon be preparing to assume ASEAN's presidency in 2006. What kind of an image does ASEAN have with Burma as its president? ASEAN's credibility can't withstand the presidency of a rogue regime that is unreconstructed and brutal, which has the blood of its people on its hands and imprisons their elected leader. As long as Burma festers, ASEAN looks either incapacitated, weak, or irrelevant.
As long as Aung San Suu Kyi remains in prison and the Burmese people live in fear, convinced Burma's neighbors are complicit in their suffering, the problem of Burma will be an issue in America's bilateral relations with nations across Asia. It is time for Burma to command the attention of the U.N. Security Council. Burma's misrule is clearly of international importance. The council has not even formally been briefed by Ambassador Razali Ismail since his visit over a month ago to Rangoon as the Secretary General's personal representative. The United States should demand that the Security Council take up this issue.
As the United States, the EU, and even ASEAN have acknowledged, Burma is an international problem. The council would be remiss to ignore it, and even a council debate would command the attention of the generals. It might also command some attention in Beijing, Bangkok, Tokyo, and other capitals with the power to make a difference. It is past time for the United States and our allies to press this issue.
I am proud that Congress, with passage of this legislation, is speaking with one voice in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people. The generals must know we won't let up the pressure until Burma is free. The United States stands with the Burmese people in their struggle for the freedom that is their birthright and which the generals have stolen from them. We will do everything in our power to help them take back their country.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that four editorials be printed in the RECORD. Two are from the Washington Post, one from the Wall Street Journal, and the final one a comment by Jack Straw, the foreign minister of Great Britain.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, the Washington Post editorial of July 14 says:
It's been a month since Secretary of State Colin L. Powell promised prompt action to penalize the generals he referred to as "the thugs who run the Burmese government." The time had come, he said in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal, to freeze their financial assets and ban remittances into Burma. But the administration has taken no such steps. It's been six weeks since the junta sent 3,000 vigilantes armed with wooden bats and sharpened iron rods, to beat and stab Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters as they traveled with her in the hinterland. [She] apparently escaped injury but was taken into custody and, except for one brief interview with a U.N. envoy, has not been heard from since.
And the United Nations? You might think the Security Council would have swung into action to demand freedom for one of the world's most courageous leaders and for her colleagues and to address the threat to regional stability posed by the increasingly erratic junta. After all, there is no dispute as to her legitimacy; the party she leads overwhelmingly won an election in 1990 but has never been permitted to take its rightful place in government. So far, however, the chief U.S. response has been the election of Burmaor Myanmar, as the generals call itto the presidency of the General Assembly for the session that begins in September.
The Washington Post June 22, last year:
But actions of real consequences? So far, none. Southeast Asian foreign ministers, meeting last week in Cambodia with Mr. Powell, agreed to send a delegation to Burma no later than October. October? While one of the world's most courageous political leaders languishes in one of its most infamous jails? Where are Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council? Where are the executive orders that President Bush could issue today?
I appreciate very much, and I referred to, Secretary Colin Powell's article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 12 and, on June 25, Jack Straw's articlethe Foreign Secretary, as we all know, of our close friend and ally, England. He wrote:
Last week was Aung San Suu Kyi's 58th birthday. What should have been a day of quiet celebration with family and friends for the Nobel Peace Prize winner was instead spent in detention in a jail outside Rangoon. . . .
Far from Ms. Suu Kyi's being in "protective custody," the only people being "protected" by her detention are those in the military regime itself. They hope that by keeping herand the democratic movementincarcerated they can cling on to power. The military government, which attempts to run Burma through fear and intimidation, is not only brutal, but also corrupt and incompetent. A once prosperous country is being run into the ground. Poverty is rife and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are spreading.
In stark contrast in the Burmese military junta, and to their enduring fury Ms. Suu Kyi commands the support and respect of the Burmese people. Ever since her party won an election in 1990, the regime has harassed and intimidated Ms. Suu Kyi and her supporters. She has already suffered long spells of house arrest and imprisonment.
Hundreds of her supporters are also in prison, many without trial. Others have been blackmailed or intimidated into giving up politics. But whenever and wherever she travels, ordinary people still turn out in the thousands to see and hear her. For them, she is a marker of hope for a better future.
He concludes by saying:
The hopes and aspirations of the Burmese people cannot be frustrated. The spirit and justness of the democracy movement cannot be contained by violence or prison cells. We call on the friends of Burma, in Asia and around the world, to redouble their efforts to help Ms. Suu Kyi and the people of Burma move toward national reconciliation, respect for human rights, and democracy they so richly deserve.
Mr. President, we need the Security Council to debate this issue. Our Ambassador and our Secretary of State should call for that debate. Our administration, following the passage of this legislation, should immediately implement Executive orders that can further put restrictions on our relations with this gang of thugs in Burma.
Finally, there are probably people who may be viewing this action by Congress today and the comments the Senator from Kentucky, Mr. McConnell, and I are making and saying: You know, Burma is a small country, far away. It is rise or fall. Its type of government has very little impact on the United States economically, culturally, politically, or militarily.
But I argue that that is not the case, particularly when we look at the flow of drugs and many other things that are happening in this country.
Why is it that these Senators are not talking about Iraq? Americans are dyingone a daythere. There is an unfolding scandal, or mini-scandal, about who knew what and when and why, and there is a great politicization of that. North Korea has threatened to develop nuclear weapons. Iraq apparently is doing that. Why isn't the Senate devoting their attention to larger issues that far more vastly affect the U.S. national security?
The answer is simple: This democracy movement in Burma is what America is all about. Over 200 years ago, in a very small country, a very small movement for independencewhich was given very little chancetook place in this country. If it had not been for the help of other countriesparticularly Francethe United States may have achieved its independence over time, but certainly not in the way that we did.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time for the majority debate has expired.
Mr. McCAIN. I ask unanimous consent for an additional minute.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, at the risk of redundancy, what is happening in Burma is what the United States is all aboutour defense of freedom and democracy, even if it doesn't affect our national interest. That is what makes America different.
I argue that this administration, this Congress, and the American people will reconfirm their commitment to their freedom, democracy, and to one of the great heroic figures in history, and that is Madam Aung San Suu Kyi, who has the profound respect, appreciation, affection, and admiration of all who have encountered her and many who have not.
I yield the floor.
Mr. McCONNELL. Before the Senator leaves, I thank him for his passionate and insightful comments about the situation in Burma. No one has said it better. I also share his view that the U.N. ought to take up this matter. I wish to mention to my friend from Arizona that, in discussion with the special envoy, Mr. Razali, last week, he showed very little enthusiasm. The reason is that China might veto it.
I wonder if the Senator shares my view that I don't care whether China would take such an action, this needs to be discussed before the Security Council, debated among the most important countries in the world. Let the Chinese in public rationalize such an action if they are inclined to do so. I wonder if my friend shares my view on that.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, yes, I think if it is China's view that the Security Council should not take up an issue of basic fundamental human rights and democracy and wish to veto it, that is their right as members of the U.N. Security Council. But the fact is, that does not relieve the United States of our obligation to bring it up.
One other aspect. Since we have met with Mr. Razali on a number of occasions, up until our last meeting with the special envoy of the U.N., Mr. Razali, he was generally upbeat that things would get better in Burma, that some of the restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi would be relaxed, and that we should take this moderate approach. In fact, there was even little criticism of the inclusion of Burma in ASEAN because that would bring them into the fold. Now they are facing the embarrassing prospect of, 2 years from now, Burma taking over the chairmanship of ASEAN itself. That is remarkable.
So it was very interesting to me that Mr. Razali, for all intents and purposesfrom my impression of our conversationhas basically given up on the policy of sort of appeasement, bringing along the junta so they would become more democratic, et cetera. In fact, I think his statements, authenticated by events, indicate that that policy has been an abject failure.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Senator from Arizona is absolutely correct. This policy of engagement has been a total failure. That is part of what our bill is about today. It is to not only establish a leadership role for the United States but to lead the world in moving in a different direction.
The Senator from Kansas is here, and he also had a chance to meet with Mr. Razali and has made an important contribution to this debate. I believe we have enough time to accommodate not only Senator Brownback but Senator Leahy as well.
Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a moment?
Mr. BROWNBACK. Yes.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I have an inquiry. How much time is available on this side?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. There are 11 minutes 9 seconds remaining.
Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I will not speak long. The Senator from Kentucky has covered this very well, as well as the Senator from Arizona. I think it is important that the Senate take up this resolution. It is an important time to do this and it is an important cause.
There are two narrow issues I would like to comment on briefly regarding the situation of the neighboring country of Thailand.
Thailand has been a strong ally of the United States for some period of time and has worked closely with us on a number of issues in which we have a strong interest in the region. Yet on this issue of Burma, Thailand has not been constructive. As a matter of fact, it has put forward a number of really quite negative comments.
The current Thai Prime Minister most distressedly has begun an assault on Burmese exiles living as refugees on the Thai-Burma border, which leads me to the next category on which I think we need to be pressing.
I have been to the Thai-Burma border. The exiles, because of the Burmese Government, have fled to the Thai border and are in refugee camps. They are subjected to all sorts of horrific conditionsliving conditions that are not appropriate, sanitation conditions that are not appropriate, and then they are being trafficked, as people move through, trying to take young women and children into the sex trade that flourishes in Thailand and other places, but particularly in Thailand.
We have seen a rapid slave trade, trafficking in persons. Sex trafficking is taking place because of the Burmese Government and what they are doing, and the complicity of the Thai Government of not dealing with this situation on the border, of not condemning those in the Burmese Government who are causing problems.
I rise in support of the bill introduced by the Senator from Kentucky. What is happening in Burma is an extraordinary situation. It is having huge human consequences in the region with people fleeing from the Burmese Government and who then are being trafficked, and we are not getting the help and support we need from a number of countries, particularly Thailand. This seems to be propping up the Burmese regime. This is something about which we should be very clear to our allies cannot continue.
I rise in strong support of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. I urge its unanimous passage and world condemnation of what is taking place by the Government of Burma.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, if I may briefly say before the Senator from Kansas leaves, I thank him for having a hearing on the Burma situation and for being exceedingly involved and knowledgeable about this issue. I am sure he shares my view that this is going to be a long struggle. We are going to be dealing with this issue, unfortunately, next year when this certification process kicks in and we are back to reviewing the Burmese Government. I hope I am wrong. I hope by this time next year Aung San Suu Kyi is not only out of jail but in power. I would not bet on it.
I thank the Senator from Kansas for his important contributions.
Mr. BROWNBACK. I thank the Senator.
Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for H.R. 2330, the Burma Sanctions bill.
It is a travesty that today, 55 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and only weeks after fighting a war to liberate 24 million Iraqis, we watch the military junta in Rangoon violently and ruthlessly suppress the rights of the Burmese people.
The bill before us, like S. 1182, will send a strong message to the thugs running Burma that the U.S. Congress will not tolerate their abrogation of the rule of law.
The international community needs to follow suit. This is especially true with regard to Burma's neighborsthe countries of the ASEAN groupand the Security Council of the United Nations.
I would like to call attention to a July 14 Washington Post editorial that very clearly states the need for a unified, international approach to confronting the military junta in Burma. The editorial asserts that the United Nations must do more to push Burma toward reform and democratization. And it draws attention to the sorry fact that Burma has been elected to provide the vice president of the United Nation's General Assembly for the session beginning in September 2003.
It is appalling that one of the world's most oppressive regimes has been chosen by its neighbors for a leadership role at the United Nations. This selection serves only to undermine the credibility of the United Nations and the General Assembly.
I support H.R. 2330 because I am a strong advocate for human rights and democratic governance in Southeast Asia and around the world. I call on my colleagues to pass this bill.
I also call on administration officials to raise the military junta's suppression of human and political rightsincluding the illegal arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and at least 17 officials of her party on May 30 when they meet with their ASEAN nation counterparts.
Finally, I urge the international community to stand up to the Burmese dictatorship. We must remain steadfast in our resolve to restore the freedom of the Burmese people. We need to send a message to these thugs that their brutal reign of oppression and terror does not go unnoticed and will not last.
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate the House of Representatives for passing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 and to urge the Senate to take swift action on the House bill to get it to the President's desk.
The 418-to-2 House vote to ban all imports from Burma is an important statement to support for human rights, the rule of law, and democracy in Burma.
Over 6 weeks have passed since Aung San Suu Kyi and several of her National League for Democracy colleagues came under attack by paramilitary thugs and were subsequently detained by the ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council, SPDC.
Since then, with the exception of a brief visit by the U.N. Special Envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado reportedly in the notorious Insein Prison.
The events of May 30 clearly indicate that the military junta has no intention of adhering to its commitment to engage the NLD in a substantive dialogue on political reform and national reconciliation.
Prompt Senate action will put the U.S. Congress firmly on record in support of Suu Kyi's immediate release and the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Burmese people as expressed by the 1990 parliamentary elections, decisively won by the NLD.
The only difference in the House bill as opposed to the Senate bill passed last montha 3-year sunset on the sanctionsis acceptable, if not ideal.
Now, I call on the international community, in particular ASEAN and the United Nations, to follow Congress's lead and take action to bring pressure to bear on the SPDC.
A united effort is critical for sanctions to be most effective. The regime must know that the world speaks with one voice and its days are numbered.
I urge my colleagues to support the House bill so that the President can sign it into law.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, while both the Senator from Kansas and the Senator from Kentucky are on the floor, I want to take a minute to praise them for their outstanding statements. I strongly support the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act that Senator McConnell, Senator Feinstein, and others have introduced and sheparded through the Senate earlier this year.
I have lost count of the number of times my good friend from Kentucky has come to the Chamber to send an important message to the very brutal and very corrupt regime in Burma. Senator McConnell's message has been: Your conduct is outrageous. It should not be allowed to stand. Aung San Suu Kyi is the democratically elected leader of Burma, and she and her fellow opposition leaders must be immediately released.
The Senator from Kentucky and those who join with him are absolutely right. Our country, the greatest democracy history has ever known, must stand for democratic principles around the world. This legislation helps the United States do just that.
Since the McConnell-Feinstein legislation was introducedand passed by the Senate 93 to 1, something we do not see too often around hereit has helped send a clear signal to the administration, ASEAN members, and the international community that we need to increase the pressure on the illegitimate regime in Burma.
We have seen some good first steps taken by the State Department, including a ban on remittances, expansion of visa restrictions, and a strong statement by Deputy Secretary Armitage on Friday.
But, U.S. action can only go so far. There has to be active pressure from Burma's neighbors in Southeast Asia. I single out Thailand, Japan, and China. These nations have to disavow what we all know has been a failed policy of engagement.
In many cases, engagement can be a good thing. In many cases, engagement can help resolve difficult international issues. This is not one of those times.
Mr. President, I am glad to see some postive developments have occured on this issue in Asia. The ASEAN nations have taken the unprecedented step of expressing concern with the situation in Burma. The Japanese have suspended some forms of aid to the regime.
But that is not enough. Other leaders in the region have to make unequivocal statements saying what we in the United States Senate are saying: Aung San Suu Kyi is the democratically elected leader of Burma and the military junta has to release her and her followers.
The world needs to do more. The U.N. has to become more involved. The Security Council should be briefed by U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail on the situation in Burma and Security Council action should be seriously considered.
My purpose in speaking, obviously, is to support this legislation. However, I wanted to take a moment to praise the deep and personal effort by the Senator from Kentucky on Burma. He has shown courage, but, perhaps more importantly, he has demonstrated tremendous persistence in keeping our attention focused on Burma. Sometimes we forget some of what we say is heard and has an impact in other parts of the world. In some cases, it may not be make it back to our own States, but it is heard in the parts of the world where is makes a big difference. This is one of those times.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kentucky.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Vermont for his kind comments on the Burma bill and appreciated his forceful advocacy of passage.
In terms of the parliamentary situation, is there time left on the Burma bill on both sides?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. That is correct.
Mr. McCONNELL. I am prepared to yield back the time that remains on this side if the Senator from Vermont would do the same.
Mr. LEAHY. I will do the same. Should we ask for the yeas and nays?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time is yielded back.
Mr. McCONNELL. Do we need to ask for the yeas and nays on the Burma bill?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. That would be appropriate.