Approving Renewal of Import Restrictions Contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003

By:  Pete King
Date: July 23, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


APPROVING RENEWAL OF IMPORT RESTRICTIONS CONTAINED IN THE BURMESE FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - July 23, 2008)

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Mr. KING of New York. Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of H. J. Res. 93, a resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (P.L. 108-61). I am proud to have once again introduced this legislation; this year with the gentleman from New York, Mr. Crowley.

In 2003 Congress passed the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act, legislation that I co-authored with my friend, the late Tom Lantos. President Bush signed this bill into law and we have reauthorized these import restrictions every year since. The legislation bans imports from Burma and the issuance of visas to those officials affiliated with the State Peace and Development Council, SPDC, the military junta that rules Burma and brutally represses its people. This law also bans U.S. financial transactions that involve individuals or entities connected with the SPDC.

These sanctions are critically important to keeping the pressure on the Burmese junta. The government continues to have one of the worst human rights records in the world and routinely violates the rights of Burmese citizens, including the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, as well as slave and child labor. The Burmese regime has destroyed more than 3,000 ethnic villages, displaced approximately 2,000,000 Burmese people, more than 500,000 of which are internally displaced, and arrested approximately 1,300 individuals for expressing critical opinions of the government. And it continues to hold Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the National League for Democracy and the democratically elected leader of Burma, under house arrest.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does. In August 2007, after the SPDC cancelled fuel subsidies resulting in skyrocketing fuel prices, student leaders, democracy leaders, and Buddhist monks marched peacefully through the streets to demand human rights, freedom, and democracy. But the military responded by attacking these protestors. Hundreds of innocent people were killed, arrested, imprisoned, or tortured as part of this violent crackdown.

Then in May 2008 came Cyclone Nargis. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens lost their lives because the government did not inform them a storm was approaching and, even worse, delayed and prevented humanitarian aid from reaching its people.

We must continue to stand with the Burmese people and expose the despicable and reprehensible actions of the SPDC. Sanctions are critical to putting pressure on the junta, Just last week the House passed the Burmese Democracy Promotion Act (H.R. 3890) which would ban the importation of Burmese gems into the United States and freeze the assets of Burmese political and military leaders. But we need to urge others to do the same. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, the European Union, EU, and the United Nations Security Council, UNSC, must all impose multilateral sanctions against Burma's military regime including a complete arms embargo.

I urge adoption of the resolution.

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