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Public Statements

Burma

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, despite U.S. officials continuing to celebrate the alleged ``opening'' of Burma and planning projects such as bringing electricity to the entire country, we need to stop and listen to the people of Burma. The ethnic groups have a different story to tell, one which does not support U.S. agencies' narrative. Ethnic minorities are not celebrating this alleged ``opening.'' Instead, they continue to be forced to defend themselves from offensive attacks by the Burma army and regime.

Some officials in Washington act as if democracy has suddenly infused all levels of government and all policies in Burma, including by welcoming and feting Shwe Mann, the 3rd ranking official in the ``former'' dictatorship who is now serving as the Speaker of the Combined House of Parliament. The people of Burma are still fighting for freedom of speech, conscience, belief, and association. Political prisoners still languish in prison, the Muslim minority has been brutally attacked by factions of the Buddhist majority with nary an outcry by Aung San Suu Kyi or other democratically elected leaders, and Kachin women and girls are still raped by soldiers bent on purifying minority bloodlines. How can a government that continues to implement policies that directly contradict democratic principles be so embraced by the international community, including by U.S. officials?

What is wrong with this picture? The Administration is supporting those in favor of removing a dictatorship in one country while embracing a brutal dictatorship in another country. How is it that in one area of the world, our government has provided training and weapons to groups working against a dictatorship--even as some members of the opposition may have direct links to Al Qaeda--while in Burma, we have turned our backs on a population that has longed for democracy, freedom, and the protection of basic rights?

These inconsistent policies are deeply disturbing. ``Former'' dictators who truly desired to establish a democracy would stop using forced labor in military projects; would end horrific attacks against the Kachin, Northern Shan and Taang communities; would cease rearming, rebuilding, and resupplying their bases in ethnic territories; and would discontinue using bait and switch tactics in negotiations.

In recent negotiations between the Burma Government and the ethnic groups, the Government acts as if the ethnic groups should prove that they are trustworthy in terms of any ceasefire agreement. I would strongly posit that it's the other way around: the Government of Burma must prove its trustworthiness to the ethnic groups by ending its aggression before any ceasefire occurs. The ethnic minorities have simply defended their people and states when under attacks initiated by the Burma government. It is time for those attacks to stop, it is time for the Burma Army to withdraw from the ethnic areas, and it is time for the international community to stop indirectly facilitating the blatant racism in Burma by normalizing every relationship with the regime Burma and instead express exceptional disappointment with the failure to move forward towards honest political dialogue and true democracy.

I call on the Government of Burma to prove its commitment to democracy and peace by unconditionally and immediately ending the horrific attacks against ethnic minorities and fully withdrawing from their territories. Earn the trust of the people by showing, over the long term, that you truly have turned 180 degrees and will implement democratic principles instead of imposing a dictatorship on the population.

I call on the Obama Administration to embrace the reality in Burma. Listen to what the people who live inside Burma say they desire. They want to live in peace, but that will not happen until the Burma Government and Army stop their attacks against the ethnic groups and enact a nationwide ceasefire. The U.S. Administration needs to stop its direct and indirect support for the Burma Government and Army by discontinuing assistance until specific benchmarks are met, by delaying any Pentagon training until all attacks against minorities cease, and by ensuring the ethnic nationality groups are given a full and equal place at the table to help decide the future of their country.

To the ethnic nationalities of Burma--stand your ground. You deserve to have your rights and freedoms protected and you deserve an equal place at the table to decide the future of your country.


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