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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1182

Location: Washington, DC



    S. 1182. A bill to sanction the ruling Burmese military junta, to strengthen Burma's democratic forces and support and recognize the National League of Democracy as the legitimate representative of the Burmese people, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

    Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. President, while democracy activists in Burma have been murdered, intimidated and harassed for well over a decade, the blitzkrieg on freedom launched last weekend by the illegitimate State Peace and Development Council—SPDC—killed and injured scores of supporters from the National League for Democracy—NLD.

    Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and numerous other activists were brutalized, arrested and today remain held incommunicado. Reports indicate that Suu Kyi is being held in the Yemon military camp, 40 kilometers outside of Rangoon. It is believed she suffers from lacerations to her face and a broken shoulder. The administration should waste no time in gaining access to Suu Kyi to ensure her safety and security.

    I have come to the floor every day this week to draw attention to the untenable situation in that country. On Monday, I urged the administration to act promptly and decisively in support of democracy in Burma. The State Department can take specific action without the need for legislation—such as broadening visa restrictions, freezing assets, and downgrading Burma's diplomatic status in Washington.

    Mr. MCCAIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

    Mr. MCCONNELL. Yes.

    Mr. MCCAIN. I thank the Senator from Kentucky for his advocacy for, not only one of the world's great, courageous figures, but also on behalf of democracy and freedom in a small country far away.

    Is the Senator from Kentucky aware of any action, or even any statements being made by our friends in Asia, including ASEAN, and how does he feel about that?

    Mr. MCCONNELL. I would say to my friend from Arizona, there will be a regional ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh on June 18 and 19. Secretary Powell is scheduled to be there. I hope that will be an opportunity to hear from the other Asian, ASEAN countries, that maybe, for once, they will understand what a pariah regime that is and work with us in a coordinated fashion to impose sanctions that will actually mean something in bringing down the regime.

    Mr. MCCAIN. If the Senator will yield for one further question, has the Senator heard about a statement of the Japanese Foreign Minister that basically is saying that everything was pretty well—the status quo was pretty well satisfactory in Burma? And before I ask the Senator to answer the question, I want to say again, I thank him for his advocacy of many years, for the democratic movement in Burma, sometimes known as Myanmar. I thank him and look forward to working with him.

    I think the Congress can act, and I hope we can work in concert with the administration.

    Mr. MCCONNELL. I thank my friend from Arizona. I understand the Japanese may be reconsidering their statement of yesterday. There could well be a subsequent statement today that might be more pleasing to the Senator from Arizona and myself.

    I thank him for being an extraordinary leader on this issue, as well, and for agreeing to cosponsor the bill I am about to introduce.

    I also might mention, I had an opportunity to talk with the Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of Defense today to encourage them to take a very great interest and recommend the President take a very great interest in this issue. The only way, obviously, we are going to have an impact in Burma is for the United States to use the kind of leadership only it can provide to rally the world around a sanctions regime and tighten the noose around this regime and hopefully this will be the beginning of that effort.

    Mr. MCCAIN. I thank my friend.

    Mr. MCCONNELL. The White House should utilize all authority at its disposal to immediately sanction the junta, including banning imports from Burma and raising the brutal crackdown on democracy before the U.N. Security Council.

    On Tuesday, I appealed to the international community to stand by the people of Burma during their dark hour of need, and called upon the world's democracies to act in support of Suu Kyi and her courageous supporters. Elected representatives cannot stand by idly while democracy in Burma is strangled by the SPDC.

    Today, along with my colleagues Senators FEINSTEIN, MCCAIN, LEAHY, SPECTER, KENNEDY, MIKULSKI, KYL, DASCHLE, and SANTORUM, I am introducing the "Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003". This act recognizes that what is needed in Burma is fewer carrots and more sticks.

    Among other restrictions that I will describe shortly, the act imposes an import ban on articles produced, mined, manufactured, grown, or assembled in Burma. It prohibits the import of goods to the United States produced by the SPDC, companies in which the junta has a financial interest, and the SPDC's political arm, the Union Solidarity Development Association—USDA.

    Lest my colleagues forget, the USDA, under the direction of the junta, orchestrated the recent terror in the townships that left scores dead and Suu Kyi injured. They are Burma's fedayeen.

    There are some who discount economic sanctions as a tool to coerce and modify the behavior of repressive nations. According to their argument, sanctions hurt the very people they are intended to help.

    Sanctions in Burma will not rape ethnic girls and women, burn down their villages and murder their brothers, husbands, and sons.

    Sanctions in Burma will not impress children into the military, drug them, and send them off to dangerous battlefields.

    Sanctions in Burma will not use slave labor, nor will they profit from an illicit narcotics trade that wreaks havoc among the region's youth and contributes to an exploding HIV/AIDS rate along Burma's borders.

    Finally, sanctions in Burma will not attack peaceful supporters of the NLD or democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, nor will they ever take a single life by an act of violence.

    The SPDC is guilty of committing the laundry list of heinous crimes that I just described. Every single one of them is an assault on the human rights and dignity of the Burmese people. Burma's junta is as chronic an abuser of human rights as Kim Jong-Il in North Korea—and as was the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

    The fact of the matter is that the import ban will impact a negligible percentage of Burma's population. It will deny Burma the ability to import some $350 million to $470 million worth of goods to the United States—most of which are garments and textiles—thus denying the SPDC legitimate revenue.

    Unfortunately, the people of Burma reap almost no benefits from this income. The SPDC is more interested in spending revenue on itself than in investing in the welfare of the people of Burma.

    With over one-quarter of Burma's imports currently destined for the United States, the ban will hit the SPDC where it hurts most—in the pocketbook and its public image.

    South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who knows a thing or two about sanctions and repression, said of Burma earlier this week:

    We urge freedom loving governments everywhere to impose sanctions on this illegitimate regime. They worked for us in South Africa. If applied conscientiously, they will work in Burma too. Freeze the assets of the regime and impose stringent travel restrictions on them and their supporters. We need a regime change [in Burma].

    I supported sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa then, and I support sanctions against the military junta in Burma now.

    Sanctions will empower Burma's democrats who have already demonstrated their support for freedom by overwhelmingly electing the NLD in the 1990 elections. These polls were never recognized by the SPDC. Instead, the junta has spent the past decade trying to suffocate the aspirations for democracy by all of Burma's people and imprisoning their leader, Suu Kyi.

    In addition to the import ban, the act also freezes the assets of the SPDC in the United States and requires the U.S. to oppose and vote against loans or other assistance proposed for Burma by international financial institutions.

    It expands the visa ban to former and present SPDC leadership and the Union Solidarity Development Association and requires coordination with the European Union's visa ban list. Let me be clear that the SPDC leadership includes all officer-level individuals associated with the regime.

    Finally, the act requires the Secretary of State to promote greater awareness of the abuses of the SPDC, requires the State Department to more proactively promote awareness of U.S. policy toward Burma, and encourages greater support for Burmese democracy activists.

    Let me close with a few words and observations about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Over the years, the daughter of the father of Burma's independence has stood squarely between the people of Burma and the thuggish regime. Against great odds and often in great danger, Suu Kyi has consistently and successfully stared down SPDC generals and their military might. She has never wavered—not once—in her support for democracy and the rule of law for Burma.

    Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Suu Kyi and the people she so ably represents. She is obviously the greatest hope for that country.

    I ask my colleagues: If America does not stand with Suu Kyi and the NLD now, whither freedom and justice in Burma? Without us, it has no chance.

    Pressure, patience and persistence will bring political change to Burma. Suu Kyi knows this in her heart and mind, as we all do. America must lead. And if we do, others will rally.

    I thank my friend from New Mexico. I yield the floor and ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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