SUPPORT OF BURMA'S DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT -- (Extensions of Remarks - February 16, 2005)
HON. JOSEPH R. PITTS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2005
Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, on February 17, 2005, Burma's ruling military junta, a regime that Secretary of State Rice has rightly called an "outpost of tyranny," will reconvene a national convention to draft a new constitution. Sadly, this convention, which excludes anyone interested in democracy and freedom of expression, appears to be yet another attempt to place a veneer of legitimacy on the dictatorship's rule. General Than Shwe, the recognized leader of Burma's military and the dictatorship, must understand that the international community and the people of Burma are not fooled by this latest attempt to establish legitimacy.
On February 14th, Burma's Committee for the Restoration of the People's Parliament (CRPP), an umbrella organization including over 200 Members of Parliament elected in 1990, called for all of Burma's ethnic groups to boycott the military's convention. The CRPP includes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). The statement by CRPP demonstrates once again the incredible bravery of the Burmese people in their battle against the ruling generals.
Mr. Speaker, it is time for the international community to face the facts: Than Shwe and other leading participants of this rogue regime have shown that they have no desire to seek political accommodation or peaceful dialogue with the Burmese people. Their actions show that they have chosen the path of tyranny and terror-the impact of this decision will increasingly be felt throughout the region.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must realize that Burma's military junta is an iron anchor wrapped around the neck of this important organization. The actions of the military junta are draining economic growth from regional states, promoting the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout Asia, protecting indicted drug smugglers and flooding Thailand with methamphetamines and heroin, that eventually makes its way to the shores of the U.S. The regime fundamentally promotes regional instability and obstructs regional growth.
Recently, the U.S. Federal Court in New York City indicted eight drug traffickers from Burma in absentia. According to court documents, they are leaders of the United Wa State Army, one of the largest drug producers and traffickers in the world. This group is responsible for importing $1 billion worth of heroin into the U.S. between 1985 and 2004. These criminals could not operate without the active collusion of the ruling generals. Moreover, the legendary drug kingpin known as Khun Sa, also under indictment in the U.S. on heroin trafficking charges, is living under the protection of the dictatorship of Rangoon. On November 18, 2003, the Department of the Treasury announced the designation of Burma and two Burmese banks to be of "primary money laundering concern" under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Inaddition, The Department of Treasury, acting through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), has instituted sanctions against two Burmese financial institutions, Myanmar Mayflower Bank and Asia Wealth Bank, due to money laundering concerns.
ASEAN is serving in a critical role in the recovery and rebuilding efforts after the horrible tsunami that devastated parts of Asia. As a leader in the international community, ASEAN must come to understand that the organization must actively challenge Burma's military regime to work with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. It must not be forgotten that the NLD won over 80 percent of the seats in the 1990 parliamentary election. A stable and democratic Burma is good for the entire region and the world. I would like to strongly commend and welcome the work of the Burma Caucus members in the Indonesian and Malaysian parliaments who are pressing for greater involvement by their countries in pressing the Burmese junta to bring positive change.
ASEAN cannot afford to have its leadership role sidetracked as it is forced to account for the acts of terror and oppression a member nations, Burma's junta, inflicts on the Burmese people. Last year's Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) was delayed for months due to negotiations surrounding the participation of Burma. ASEAN is heading for another diplomatic fiasco as Burma is set to assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006. ASEAN must understand that when the group spends more time addressing the latest crisis created by the junta, instead of focusing on plans to promote economic growth, fight the war on terror, and develop collective solutions to the region's social problems, that is not good for ASEAN or any of its individual members. ASEAN immediately needs to put significant, meaningful pressure on the regime. Ejecting Burma's junta or at the very least suspending their membership from ASEAN would be a powerful statement of ASEAN's determination to deal with the problems Burma's dictatorship creates.
The United States government and citizens have long stood side-by-side with Burma's democracy movement. I look forward to legislation that will continue the U.S. economic sanctions imposed on the country in 2003. In addition to action that we take as a nation, we must also press the United Nations to do more. Secretary General Kofi Annan should use his office to bring the issue of Burma before the Security Council for immediate action. Further, the Secretary General should request a formal investigation to examine evidence of crimes against humanity by Burmese military officials and senior regime leaders in order to hold responsible parties accountable for the widespread use of rape and ethnic dislocation as weapons of war.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House, the Senate and the Administration to see that Burma's military regime soon joins the Soviet Union, Ceausescu's Romania, Milosevic's Yugoslavia and other regimes and dictatorships that now reside in the ashbin of world history.
And, Mr. Speaker, I say to the people of Burma: You are not forgotten. We stand with you and will continue to work with you for as long as it takes to ensure that the people of your nation are able to live in peace and freedom.