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Renewing The Import Restrictions In The Burmeses Freedom And Democracy Act Of 2003

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, today our colleagues will vote on H.J. Res. 83, which would extend sanctions on the Burma regime for another year. As in years past, I am joined in this effort by my good friend, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Alongside the 2 of us are 66 other cosponsors, including Senators McCain, Durbin, Gregg, and Lieberman.

This overwhelming bipartisan support for sanctioning the junta reflects the clear view of more than two-thirds of the Senate that the generals currently ruling Burma should be denied the legitimacy they are pursuing through this year's sham elections.

Renewing sanctions against the military regime in Burma is as timely and as important as ever. The ruling State Peace and Development Council is continuing its efforts to try to stand up a farcical new Constitution by holding bogus elections. These elections--whenever they take place--will be dubious for a number of reasons. First, the junta continues to imprison Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The generals have made it clear they will prevent her from participating in any government under the new Constitution.

Second, the military leadership effectively forced Suu Kyi's party, which overwhelmingly won the last Democratic election way back in 1990, to shutter its operation.

Third, the Burmese electoral watchdog, which is essentially an arm of the SPDC, recently issued rules on campaigning that are ludicrous on their very face. For instance, they prohibit a variety of electioneering activities such as organizing marches, holding flags, and chanting slogans.

As if things in Burma on the election front were not alarming enough, the potential security threat posed by the regime has become increasingly worrisome. The last several months have continued to produce press reports of ties between Burma and North Korea, including particularly alarming indications of alleged weapons transfers from Pyongyang.

I am hopeful the time will soon come when sanctions against the Burmese Government will no longer be needed and that, as did South Africa in the early 1990s, the people of Burma will be able to free themselves from their own government. However, as recent events indicate, the Burmese junta maintains its iron grip on its people and continues to carry out a foreign policy that is inimical to U.S. objectives.

For these reasons, the United States must deny this regime the legitimacy it so craves and await the day when the Burmese people will be permitted to govern their own affairs.


Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I rise for a colloquy with my colleague, the senior Senator from California, to discuss interpretation of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, as amended.

I ask my Democratic colleague, who is the lead cosponsor of this legislation, is it her understanding that the prodemocracy National League for Democracy party has officially decided to boycott the upcoming 2010 Burmese elections.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Yes, it is. The National League for Democracy in March
of this year indicated it could not participate in the elections due to the junta's repressive election law. It therefore declined to register as a political party and consequently under the new law was abolished as a political party in early May.

Mr. McCONNELL. In light of the NLD's boycott of the elections and its consequent dissolution under Burmese law, is it my friend's understanding that the NLD may be driven underground as a result of its decision or be forced to reconstitute itself in some other capacity?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Yes, it is. The NLD has indicated it will try to continue to help the Burmese people in ways other than as a legally registered political party.

Mr. McCONNELL. Is it the understanding of the senior Senator from California that the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, as amended by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act, makes several references to the ``National League for Democracy''?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Yes, it is. There are several such references in the legislation as amended.

Mr. McCONNELL. Is it also the Senator's understanding that references to the ``National League for Democracy'' should be interpreted to include any appropriate successor entity to the NLD, be it a nongovernmental organization or some other comparable group?

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Yes. It is my view the proper statutory construction given the term ``National League for Democracy'' would be to include any appropriate successor entity, group or subgroups that the NLD may form in the future.

Mr. McCONNELL. I thank my friend for clarifying this matter. It appears that both cosponsors are in full agreement on the proper means of interpreting this term.

I yield the floor.


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