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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. BIDEN (for himself, Mr. McConnell, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Leahy, and Mrs. Feinstein):

S. 2257. A bill to impose sanctions on officials of the State Peace and Development Council in Burma, to amend the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to prohibit the importation of gemstones and hardwoods from Burma, to promote a coordinated international effort to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today, I rise to introduce a bipartisan bill to promote the restoration of civilian, democratic rule to the troubled state of Burma. The goal of the Burma Democracy Promotion Act is to help create the right conditions for the peaceful, negotiated transfer of power from the generals who have ruled Burma for almost 2 decades to a newly-constituted civilian, democratic government.

In order to do this, we need to bring pressure to bear on the Burmese generals directly responsible for the bloody crackdown on peaceful protestors last month. This bill imposes new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the leaders of the junta and their associates and tightens the economic sanctions imposed by the Congress in 2003 by outlawing the importation of Burmese gems and timber to the U.S. Carefully targeted sanctions can support our diplomacy. In this case, the sanctions are designed to provide leverage on the generals, who seem largely indifferent to the suffering of ordinary people. Until now, the generals have managed largely to avoid the bite of existing economic sanctions, enjoying their shopping trips abroad and stashing their riches outside of Burma. We hope to change that.

But unilateral pressure alone will not get the job done. We need a diplomatic offensive. Importantly, this bill creates a new position of Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. The Special Representative will work with Burma's neighbors and other interested countries, including the members of the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to develop a comprehensive approach to the problem, including sanctions, dialogue, and support for non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to the Burmese people. We need China, India, and Thailand, among others, to join with us to convince the generals that it is time for change.

While we work for a negotiated solution to the current crisis, we must not forget the Burmese people. This bill authorizes new assistance for the hundreds of thousands of Burmese who have been forced from their homes and are now refugees or who continue to suffer inside the country because of the mismanagement and brutality of the military regime.

It is time for Burma to begin a new day in which all of the people, including Burma's many minority groups, work together to rebuild what nearly 20 years of disastrous military rule have destroyed. With the support of the international community, a new government can build a more prosperous and democratic state, one that is at peace with its neighbors and that respects the human rights of all of its people. The Burmese Army should be, and can be, a part of this new Burma. The sanctions called for in this measure will be lifted provided only that the generals release all of their political prisoners, engage in a substantive dialogue with the advocates of democracy in Burma, and afford non-governmental organizations access to address the humanitarian needs of the Burmese people. These are reasonable, modest, objectives, and if met, would brighten the prospects for Burma's future.

Mr. President, others in this body have a long record of leadership on Burma policy, including the Minority Leader, Senator McConnell, who I am proud to have as a cosponsor on this bill, and Senator McCain. This bill was drafted in consultation with the staff of Senator McCain, and includes some portions of a bill he introduced earlier this month. I want to thank Senator McCain for his initiative and commend him for his strong voice on this issue. I have also relied on the wisdom of my old friend Congressman Lantos, who has already introduced legislation on Burma in the House. Finally, I want to thank the Senator from California, Senator Boxer, for cosponsoring this legislation and for chairing an important Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Burma that helped to shape this bill.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no ojection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

S. 2257


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