BIDEN Bill to Promote Democracy in Burma Passes Senate
Today the Senate unanimously passed Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Burma Democracy Promotion Act, legislation that promotes the restoration of civilian, democratic rule to the troubled state of Burma. Sen. Biden's legislation, originally cosponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), passed as an amendment to H.R. 3890, replacing the language in the existing House bill. As a result, the House must revote on the amended bill before it can go to the President for his signature.
"The message to the people of Burma today is clear: the United States stands with you as you seek a peaceful, negotiated transition to democratic civilian rule. We will work tirelessly with the international community toward that objective," said Sen. Biden.
The Burma Democracy Promotion Act imposes new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the leaders of the junta and their associates. In addition, the legislation tightens the economic sanctions Congress imposed in 2003 by outlawing the importation of Burmese gems and timber to the United States. The bill also creates a new position of Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. The Special Representative will work with Burma's neighbors and other interested countries, including the members of the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to develop a comprehensive approach to the problem, including pressure, dialogue, and support for non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to the Burmese people.
"Our ultimate objective is to re-integrate Burma into the community of nations. Sanctions without concerted diplomacy are pointless," said Sen. Biden. "It is time for Burma to begin a new day in which all of the people, including Burma's many minority groups, work together to rebuild what nearly 20 years of disastrous military rule have destroyed."