STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
S.J. Res. 36. A joint resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. President, I, along with Senators FEINSTEIN, MCCAIN, LEAHY, BROWNBACK, DASCHLE, DOLE, MIKULSKI, BURNS, CLINTON, ALLEN, EDWARDS, NICKLES, CORZINE, BIDEN, FEINGOLD and SANTORUM, am introducing today a joint resolution renewing import sanctions against Burma. My colleagues may recall that these sanctions-along with several other restrictions against the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in Rangoon-were included in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which was signed into law by President Bush on July 28, 2003.
The act received broad support in the Senate. Sixty-one members cosponsored the bill which passed in record time by a vote of 97-1. Our quick action last year sent an unequivocal message to the SPDC that its ambush and attack on the National League for Democracy (NLD) and freedom in Burma would not go unpunished.
Today, we need to send the same strong message. America must continue to lead the world's democracies in supporting the struggle for freedom in Burma.
My colleagues will be dismayed to learn that since last year's horrific SPDC-orchestrated massacre there has been no progress toward reconciliation and democracy in Burma. Thirteen-hundred prisoners of conscience continue to suffer in squalid Burmese prisons for advocating freedoms that most of us take for granted-including thought, speech and association.
Burmese democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders continue to be under house arrest and surveillance by the SPDC, and the majority of NLD party offices remain forcibly closed; United Nations and Thai efforts at engagement with the junta-through repeated visits to Rangoon and the so-called "Bangkok Process"-have predictably failed; according to the White House, Burma "failed demonstrably" in counternarcotics efforts, allowing drug gangs to freely operate inside Burma and amphetamine-type stimulants to proliferate throughout the region, posing a "major threat to national security and public health"; and, finally, the repressive and abhorrent SPDC policies of murder, rape, forced labor, forced relocation and child soldiers continue unabated.
Just yesterday, we learned from credible sources that 11 NLD supporters arrested in the wake of last year's premeditated attack were sentenced by the regime from 7 to 22 years in prison. This is in addition to the death sentences given to a Burmese sports writer who complained about soccer related corruption and to three Burmese men for having contact with the United Nations International Labor Organization.
Should my colleagues need a second opinion, let me quote Secretary of State Colin Powell in a March 10 Congressional hearing: "I see no improvement in the situation. Aung San Suu Kyi remains unable to participate in public, political life in Burma and we will not ignore that." When I asked Secretary Powell in an April 8 Foreign Operations Subcommittee hearing whether he supported the continuation of sanctions against Burma, his answer was straightforward and clear: "Yes."
The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act denies Burma 13 percent of its export market (according to CIA figures), visas for SPDC officials and their families, and, above all, legitimacy. In addition, $13 million worth of financial transactions to Burma have been blocked by the Treasury Department. While palpable impacts, these sanctions alone will not push the SPDC in the direction of meaningful reconciliation with the NLD and ethnic minorities.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu-no stranger to the struggle for freedom and justice-said earlier this year: "To dismantle apartheid [in South Africa] took not only commitment, faith and hard work, but also intense international pressure and sanctions. In Burma, the regime has ravaged the country, and the people, to fund its illegal rule. Governments and international institutions must move past symbolic gestures and cut the lifelines to Burma's military regime through well-implemented sanctions."
Amerca already cut that lifeline; it is time for other democracies to do the same. For freedom's sake, our allies and the European Union must impose targeted sanction regimes on Burma. If they are unwilling to take such action in support of the courageous and determined people of Burma, they should act for the sake of the security and stability of the region. Burma's exports to its immediate neighbors include illicit narcotics, HIV/AIDS, refugees and trafficked women and children. Further, Rangoon's connections with Russia and North Korea, in particular, deserve closer scrutiny by foreign capitals and the United Nations.
If my colleagues haven't done so already, they should read Monday's Washington Post op-ed entitled "A Need to Act on Burma" by our colleague from Arizona and former-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. I agree with their assertion that we should not be duped by SPDC window dressing in the weeks leading up to the May 17 constitutional convention charade. Even if Suu Kyi is released before that date it is not sufficient, as there are no guarantees for her security, no assurances that she will be able to freely express her views to the nation or to meet with ethnic leaders, and no sure bet that the junta will grant visas to journalists to travel to Burma.
The op-ed also raises the question of repercussions for the continued perpetuation of the status quo in Burma by China, Thailand, India, and other Asian nations. I look forward to exploring with my colleagues the most appropriate and effective ways that we can encourage those countries to support the legitimately elected leaders of Burma. If no change is in the offing, Burma's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2006 will be a tremendous loss of face to that organization and each individual member state.
Let me close by saying that sanctions must remain in place until Burma embarks on an irreversible path toward reconciliation and democracy. I intend to work closely with my colleagues-particularly the chair and ranking member of the Finance Committee-to ensure that the Senate acts just as decisively and expeditiously as we did last year. To do anything less would be to betray Suu Kyi and all those struggling for freedom and justice in Burma.
I ask unanimous consent that the following items be printed in the RECORD: A copy of the referenced Washington Post op-ed; a copy of a Boston Globe editorial entitled "No Compromise on Burma" dated March 29, 2004; a copy of a Washington Post op-ed by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee entitled "Seeds of Trouble from Burma" dated September 28, 2003; a copy of a tribute to Suu Kyi authored by rock star Bono in Time Magazine's recent special edition on the world's 100 most influential people; and a letter supporting the renewal of import sanctions by the President and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
[From the Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2003]
SEEDS OF TROUBLE FROM BURMA
(By Richard G. Lugar)
The military junta that rules Burma has long been known as a group committed to retaining power at cost. The price has been paid mainly by Burma's citizens, but the consequences may now spread well beyond Burma's borders.
The generals have killed thousands of democracy supporters since the student protests in 1988 and waged war on ethnic insurgents. To tighten their grip on the population, over the past 15 years they have doubled the size of the military, which now consumes 40 percent of the budget, at the expense of spending on health and education.
Consequently, hundreds of thousands of their citizens have died as a result of the broken-down health care system. The generals who run the country are notorious for their widespread use of forced labor, which the International Labor Organization calls "a contemporary form of slavery."
The junta has maintained these abhorrent policies despite sanctions, aid cutoffs and repeated denunciations by many Western countries, including the United States.
Yet it makes the headlines only when it commits an especially acute outrage, such as that of last May 30, when pro-government militia crashed a political rally near Mandalay and murdered several bodyguards and supporters of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the fearless democracy crusader who had been freed only last year from a lengthy house arrest.
The junta rearrested Suu Kyi, shut down offices of her political party and detained her at a secret location. She returned home Friday for a new stint of indefinite house arrest.
I am pleased that the Senate reacted quickly in June to put pressure on the junta by voting for a ban on all Burmese imports. Until now this record of bloody repression and economic ruin has primarily victimized the long-suffering Burmese people, and world attention has often drifted away from what some consider an internal problem. But it is time to take a closer look. Burma's generals are quietly moving in new directions that could make that dismal country a source of instability throughout South and Southeast Asia.
Strategically situated between regional rivals India and China, Burma is seeking to leverage the two powers' battle for influence.
China is the regime's major arms supplier and has assumed significant economic power over the country, recently extending debt relief and a $200 million loan to Burma, which has been cut off from most other external funding. China, reports indicate, has built a port and shipyard south of Rangoon to help export products from China's landlocked western provinces.
India, concerned about China's rising dominance, has stepped up its relations with Burma. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with the Burmese foreign minister earlier this year, the highest-level contact between the two countries in more than a decade, and India is also reportedly building a port on Burma's coast.
Improving ties with regional powers is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if they would push Burma toward more civilized behavior.
But neither Beijing nor New Delhi has shown any such inclination. Instead the two huge neighbors are using Burma as a pawn in their rivalry, making it a potential source of friction, not a buffer. Japan is increasingly concerned about China's penetration of Burma, and it was to counter China's influence that the regional grouping of smaller countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), decided to admit Burma as a member several years ago. These countries see now that the junta was cynically using them to try to gain legitimacy.
More troubling is the news that Burma, one of the poorest countries on earth, has contracted with Russia for a nuclear reactor. Both sides insist it is for medical research purposes, but even if that's true, it would add an unnecessary proliferation risk to a world where terrorists are on the prowl for nuclear material. Some 300 Burmese have been in Russia receiving training to operate the facility, and Burma has also bought 10 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia.
Most disturbing of all Burma is renewing ties with North Korea that were cut off after North Korean agents in 1983 set off a bomb in Rangoon that killed 21 people, including four visiting South Korean cabinet members. Besides possibly reestablishing formal diplomatic relations, the two have held high-level discussions on military cooperation.
The link-up of these two parish states can only spell trouble. North Korea's main export is dangerous weapons technology, and there have been reports that Burma is getting missiles and other arms from Pyongyang.
These developments have been largely overlooked as we concentrated on the war in Iraq, challenges in the Middle East and unpredictable developments on the Korean peninsula. But they are the seeds of a major threat to Asian security and stability. The world should take notice, and the United States needs to make Burma a priority in its relations with Russia, China, India and ASEAN so that we can forge a multilateral plan to turn the generals from their dangerous course.
[From the Boston Globe, Mar. 29, 2004]
NO COMPROMISE ON BURMA
The brutal criminality of the military junta ruling Burma has unified disparate elements along the American political spectrum. In hearings on Burma held by subcommittees of the House International Relations Committee last week, a rare solidarity among both Democrats and Republicans was on display.
The current regime in Rangoon is complicit in narcotics trafficking, ethnic cleansing, forced labor, gruesome abuse of ethnic minorities, and the violent suppression of free speech and political opposition.
In response to a deliberate massacre of fellow democrats traveling last May with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the Bush administration last July signed into law tough sanctions that ban imports from Burma. The House hearings were in preparation for renewal of those sanctions.
Without mincing his words, Lorne Craner, the State Department's assistant secretary for human rights, told the lawmakers that notwithstanding hints about democratization dropped by the junta's chairman, Than Shwe, and his accomplices, the outlaw regime in Rangoon has not taken steps that would justify the lifting of sanctions. "For all the hype about a 'road map for democracy,' nothing has changed for the better for democracy or human rights in Burma," Craner said.
The junta has intimated it might release Suu Kyi from house arrest in April. This would be a gesture the people of Burma would welcome, as would everyone around the world who cherishes human rights and democracy. Suu Kyi narrowly escaped being killed in the assault that the regime staged last May. Over the years she has accepted painful personal sacrifices for the sake of democracy in Burma-without ever deviating from her devotion to the principles of nonviolence.
As much as her compatriots long for the release of Suu Kyi, however, that will not by itself be enough to justify the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the junta. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won 80 percent of the seats in Parliament in a 1990 election-a popular verdict the military regime still refuses to accept. Until Than Shwe and the other uniformed thugs on the junta complete what assistant secretary Craner called "an irreversible transition to democracy," sanctions should remain in place.
Suu Kyi's fellow Nobel peace prize winner Desmond Tutu has written: "As in South Africa, the people and legitimate leaders of Burma have called for sanctions . . . To dismantle apartheid took not only commitment, faith and hard work, but also intense international pressure and sanctions."
Tutu's wisdom should be heeded not only by Washington but also by the European Union, which is currently considering targeted sanctions on timber and gems, direct sources of junta revenue.
[From the Washington Post, April 27, 2004]
A NEED TO ACT ON BURMA
(By John McCain and Madeleine Albright)
"Apathy in the face of systematic human rights abuses is immoral. One either supports justice and freedom or one supports injustice and bondage." So said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel laureate and anti-apartheid leader, who knows something about the struggle for human freedom in the face of tyranny.
The world's democracies have a common moral obligation to promote justice and freedom. In few places is this obligation more acute than in Burma, a country in which a band of thugs, led by Gen. Than Shwe, controls the population through violence and terror. The regime has a record of unchecked repression. It has murdered political opponents, used child soldiers and forced labor, and employed rape as a weapon of war. Nearly one year ago the Burmese military junta launched an orchestrated, violent attack against democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of her supporters. Since then the regime has kept more than 1,000 political activists imprisoned, including elected members of parliament. It recently sentenced three Burmese citizens to death for contacting representatives of the International Labor Organization.
The Burmese junta, with the cynical support of neighboring governments, has announced a "road map to democracy," beginning with a constitutional convention in May. The convention is expected to be stage-managed by the junta, which has offered no meaningful participation to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, no timetable for progress toward a political transition, no release of political prisoners and no guarantee that the military will cede control to democratically elected leaders. Instead, the junta's proposals seem designed to institutionalize military control by creating a veneer of civilian authority, while meeting only the minimum expectations of Western democracies in order to avoid further sanctions.
The Burmese regime's recent actions demonstrate that years of international engagement and patience have not made the dictatorship more humane, reasonable or open to accommodation with its political opponents. On the contrary, it is only in response to international pressure that the regime has made even the smallest moves toward a political settlement with the democratic opposition. The lesson is clear: The world's democracies and Burma's neighbors must press the junta until it is willing to negotiate an irreversible transition to democratic rule.
The legitimacy, authority and commitment of Burma's democratic leaders to govern their country is not in doubt. But the international commitment to Burma's democratic transformation remains uncertain. The Western democracies and Burma's neighbors should immediately take three steps to bolster Burma's legitimate democratic leaders.
First, Congress should promptly renew, and the president should sign into law, the ban on Burma's imports enacted into law last July. These sanctions, which are set to expire after a review period beginning Friday, are supported by Burma's National League for Democracy. The restrictions have made it more difficult for the Burmese military to tap financial assets abroad, travel or accumulate revenue through trade. The European Union, whose member democracies care deeply about protecting human rights, and whose trade and assistance programs give it critical leverage in Southeast Asia, is set to announce a new Common Position on Burma on Thursday. As part of this new policy, the EU should also initiate targeted sanctions against the regime.
Second, the EU and the United States, with support from Asian nations, should urge the junta to implement immediately the provisions of the U.N. Commission for Human Rights and the U.N. General Assembly resolutions-including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The United States and the EU should also formally place the issue on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, and work urgently toward a resolution threatening credible sanctions against the Burmese regime unless it initiates meaningful progress toward democracy.
Third, China, Thailand, India and other Asian nations uncomfortable with a tougher response to the junta's crimes must understand that diplomatic obfuscation and obstruction on Burma will profoundly affect their broader bilateral relationships with the Western democracies. Thailand in particular should consider this point when it convenes its planned international conference to discuss what it optimistically calls "Burma's progress toward democracy."
Beyond these steps, the United States, Europe and Asian countries must demand the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow political prisoners, but make clear that the releases, while necessary, are insufficient. In addition, they should continue calls for a political settlement that reflects the results of the free and fair elections held in 1990. This settlement must include a central, determinative role for the National League for Democracy.
In another era, a dissident playwright named Vaclav Havel wrote of the "power of the powerless" to overcome rule by fear and force, at a time when such a revolution in human freedom seemed impossible. The international community today has the power to help the powerless inside Burma throw off the shackles of tyranny. It is time to assume this moral responsibility. It is time to act.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI-UNBEARABLE CHOICES
It's hard not to become a monster when you are trying to defeat one. Aung San Suu Kyi is the moral leader of Myanmar, the country more correctly known as Burma. She has been, in effect, under house arrest since 1989.
Why? First, because of the military juntas who came to power in a bloody coup in 1962, and have been running the country with a truncheon ever since. Second, because of us. There has been no real roar against these human rights abusers, just the odd bark. Yet even single-party democracies check their mail. They're not just muscle; they're vain. Even juntas measure just how many boos and hisses they can get away with. Suu Kyi's peaceful bloody-mindedness is driven by courage, but her captors' bloody bloody-mindedness is driven by fear-fear of losing the business they are running for themselves.
Suu Kyi is a real hero in an age of phony phone-in celebrity, which hands out that title freely to the most spoiled and underqualified. Her quiet voice of reason makes the world look noisy, mad; it is a low mantra of grace in an age of terror, a reminder of everything we take for granted and just what it can take to get it. Thinking of her, you can't help but use anachronistic language of duty and personal sacrifice.
U2 wrote the song Walk On to honor this amazing woman who put family second to country, who for her convictions made an unbearable choice-not to see her sons grow and not to be with her husband as he lost his life to a long and painful cancer. Suu Kyi, with an idea too big for any jail and a spirit too strong for any army, changes our view-as only real heroes can-of what we believe to be possible. The jury is still out on whether we deserve the faith she has put in us.
Walk On won record of the year at the Grammys, a very proud moment. But in front of an audience of millions, I did what I've begged others not to do. I forgot to say thank you to the woman in front of the song. Thank you.
AMERICAN APPAREL &
April 5, 2004.
Hon. MITCH MCCONNELL,
DEAR SENATOR MCCONNELL: Last year, you were instrumental in an effort that led to the successful enactment of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to send a clear and unmistakable message that the United States is not interested in doing business with regimes such as the one that brutally enslaves the people of Burma. The American Apparel & Footwear Association in proud to have supported this historic measure.
This landmark legislation included a total ban on imports from Burma. As you may recall, the import ban will expire unless Congress passes, and the President signs into law, a one-year renewal by the end of July.
Since this law took effect, the ruling military junta in Burma has shown no willingness to address the many problems that made these sanctions necessary. Indeed, as the most recent State Department Human Rights report (in what appears to be an echo of more than a decade of similar reports) states, "The Government's extremely poor human rights record worsened [in 2003], and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses." Moreover, last week, State Department officials told the House International Relations Committee, "Sanctions are a key component of our policy in bringing democracy to Burma and have been a key source of support for the morale of many democracy activists."
Now is the time to reinforce our sanctions tools against this regime, and, more importantly, to actively seek similar steps from other countries. Accordingly, we urge you to introduce as soon as possible the legislation necessary to renew this import ban, as articulated in Section (9)(b)(2) of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.
We look forward to working with you to see this renewal swiftly considered and enacted.
Please accept my best regards,
KEVIN M. BURKE,
President & CEO.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I want to take a moment to provide my colleagues with insights into how serious and dedicated those who support the struggle for freedom in Burma remain.
Since the enactment of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act in July 2003, numerous colleagues and I have written to the administration and the United Nations in support of democracy in Burma. The following is a list of those letters that I have initiated or signed-but it is by no means an exhaustive list as it does not include any letters individual members may have sent themselves:
August 1, 2003: a letter to President Bush signed by myself and Senators FEINSTEIN, BROWNBACK, and LEAHY expressing concern with Thailand's lack of support for the struggle of freedom in Burma.
September 12, 2003: a letter to Secretary Powell signed by myself encouraging him to bring up the plight of Suu Kyi and other Burmese democracy activists with the United Nations and all Security Council members, particularly China.
September 30, 2003: a letter to President Bush signed by myself and Senators FEINSTEIN, MCCAIN, HOLLINGS, SANTORUM, GRAHAM, ALLEN, DODD, SESSIONS, MIKULSKI, CAMPBELL, CLINTON, SMITH, MURRAY, COLLINS, FEINGOLD, EDWARDS, BENNETT, LANDRIEU, BURNS, CANTWELL, CORZINE, WYDEN, BROWNBACK, LAUTENBERG, KOHL, MURKOWSKI, BUNNING, LIEBERMAN, SARBANES, HARKINS, DAYTON, VOINOVICH, LEAHY, and DURBIN urging his support for Thailand to play a more constructive role within ASEAN to promote genuine national reconciliation in Burma.
November 24, 2004: a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed by myself and Senators FEINSTEIN, MCCAIN, and BROWNBACK calling on the U.N. to assume a leadership role to enforce the will of the international community in recognizing the results of the 1990 elections.
March 1, 2004: a letter to President Bush signed by myself and Senators FEINSTEIN, MCCAIN and Representatives LANTOS, KING and PITTS urging continued sanctions against Burma and increased engagement with the EU.
March 29, 2004: a letter to Secretary Powell signed by myself urging him to use the Berlin donor conference on Afghanistan to work the Burma issue with the EU and Japan.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the support and leadership of Senators FEINSTEIN and MCCAIN. Both have stood steadfastly with the people of Burma. They are champions of freedom in that country, and I am pleased and proud to once again work with them on this issue.
The partnership between Congress and senior members of the Administration on Burma has been productive and commendable. I look forward to working with President Bush, Secretary Powell and others on this important issue throughout this calendar year.
This joint resolution will renew sanctions against Burma for an additional year.
Roughly a year ago, Senator McCain, Senator Feinstein, and I came to the Senate floor to talk about the arrest and reincarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi, the hero of the Burma democracy.
To refresh everyone's memory, she and her party won an overwhelming landslide election back in 1990 when the military thugs who run the country-mistakenly, from there point of view-allowed an election. The NLD and Suu Kyi won virtually 80 percent of the vote and were never allowed to take over. She was then essentially put under house arrest and has been mostly under house arrest all these years. Here we are some 14 years later.
During that time, her husband passed away while living in England. She didn't get to visit him because she knew if she went to England, she would never be allowed back into the country. She is the symbol of Burmese freedom and democracy and has been under house arrest all these years.
A little over roughly this month last year, she was allowed to go out and go around the country. Her motorcade was attacked and a number of people were killed. She was injured and was sent into confinement once again-raising the issue again in the public mind, which, unfortunately, has not been in the forefront as often as it should have been over the years. Burma for many people has been sort of out of sight and out of mind. It has not enjoyed the kind of international attention that repression deserves.
What Senator McCain, Senator Feinstein, and I have been trying to do is lead the United States to have a more proactive interest in this. That is what the Burma sanctions bill is about. It passed last June and was signed by the President Last July. Secretary Powell was before the Foreign Operations Subcommittee a few weeks ago, and he indicated that the administration supports renewal of these sanctions for an additional year. That is what the joint resolution I just introduced on behalf of Senator Feinstein, Senator McCain, and others will do.
Sanctions have had some impact. We all know sanctions have mixed results in bringing down regimes. Frequently, they do not work, but there is one really classic example of a place where international sanctions made a difference, and that was changing the regime in South Africa. In that particular instance, the United States led and the rest of the world followed, and the sanctions became so widespread and the pressure so intense that it actually brought about a change in the regime in South Africa, and the majority there was allowed to take power.
We have had a difficult time getting the kind of international cooperation on sanctions on Burma we would like to see, but we have started down that path.
This bill, which was signed last year, this Burma sanctions bill, spurred other nations to toughen their stance against Burma, denied the military regime 13 percent of its export market, and blocked $13 million in financial transactions to Burma. That is not a huge amount of money but it is a start. If the other countries in that area of the world, the ASEAN countries, and the Europeans, would give the attention to this that it deserves, we could have meaningful international sanctions that really bite.
The European Union and the U.N. will, frankly, have to be much more supportive of freedom in Burma. Both need to be much more proactive than they have been if this is going to work.
Bishop Tutu, with whom we are all familiar, the South African bishop, believes if we had the kind of international pressure and cooperation on Burma sanctions that we had on South African sanctions, it could, indeed, bring about a change in the regime in Burma.
My friend Senator McCain and I have had an opportunity to discuss this issue off and on over the years. He had a unique opportunity, which I have never experienced. I have gotten notes from Aung San Suu Kyi but never actually had a chance to meet her. I know Senator McCain had that opportunity. He and I both have been inspired by the example she has set. I believe, am I not correct, Senator McCain, you dealt with her in your most recent book as an example of the kind of courage that should be widely applauded?