Congressman Crowley's Legislation Imposing Sanctions on Burma Passes House

Jul 14, 2010 Issues: Foreign Affairs

Washington, D.C.Today, Congressman Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) praised the unanimous passage of H.J. Res. 83, a resolution led by the Congressman that extends sanctions on Burma. Specifically, the measure continues the ban on imports from Burma. Congressman Crowley has a long track-record advocating for human rights in Burma, most recently spearheading the effort to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal and to secure passage of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act.

Below are Congressman Crowley’s remarks as delivered during House debate on the measure:

“I rise in strong support of House Joint Resolution 83, a measure to renew the ban on imports from the country of Burma. The renewal of this bill is extremely important in the struggle for human rights and democracy in Burma.  This measure and our other sanctions on Burma prevent hundreds of millions of American dollars from getting into the hands of the military regime and funding its illegal activities. 
“We must never forget that the inspiration for this measure came from a remarkable woman, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.  She is the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She and her political party, the National League for Democracy, have called on freedom-loving people throughout the world, saying ‘Please, use your liberty to promote ours.’  That’s what makes these sanctions categorically different from many other situations – the people of Burma support them.
“I believe it is also important to remember that Burma’s military regime is not simply a government that is rough on its own people – it is among the most brutal, maybe even the very most brutal, in the world.  And, the regime operates with complete impunity.  The Burmese regime has recruited thousands of child soldiers, by some estimates more than any other country in the world.  The regime has destroyed over 3,500 ethnic minority villages, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in terror.  Millions of refugees live in neighboring countries like Thailand and Bangladesh.  The regime uses rape as a weapon of war against innocent Burmese women.  Over 2,000 innocent civilians remain locked behind bars as political prisoners.  It’s important to note that many of these abuses are not just human rights abuses – they are crimes against humanity. 
“That is why the United Nations investigator on human rights in Burma called for an international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.  This is something I have been calling for, for a very long time. 
“It is long overdue that the world acknowledges the regime is guilty of many heinous crimes, and we must lead the effort to hold it accountable.  As a first step, I hope the United States will go on the record in acknowledging that the Burmese regime has committed crimes against humanity.

“At the same time, I hope the Administration fully implements all the provisions of the Block Burmese JADE Act that we passed in 2008, including the tough banking sanctions enumerated in the law.  That also includes imposing tough financial sanctions on banks and companies propping up Burma’s military regime, even if those companies are not based in the United States. By passing the JADE Act, we gave the administration the authority to impose tough sanctions – now is the time to make it happen.
“We don’t have any time to wait.  The Burmese regime is planning a sham election for this year that, without strong international action, will result in a government that is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The regime has stacked the deck against the people of Burma, so that the exact same military leaders will be in power after the election.  In fact, it is not really an election at all since the result is pre-ordained. Aung San Suu Kyi is specifically barred from taking part in the election.  It would be a disservice to those struggling for freedom in Burma to recognize the results of this very undemocratic and illegitimate election process.
“The Administration has worked hard to reach out to Burma’s military regime and has urged them to change their ways.  I believe this was a worthwhile and valuable effort.  However, those efforts have been met with complete rejection – in fact, the situation in Burma has grown worse.  That’s why now is the time to crank up the pressure on Burma’s military regime.  I urge my colleagues to pass House Joint Resolution 83.”
Congressman Crowley is a six-term member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and a member of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is also a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.