Crowley Applauds House Renewal of Burma Sanctions

July 21, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) applauded today’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Crowley-authored Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (H.J.Res.56).  He released the following statement in strong support of continuing sanctions against the Burmese military junta until they release their grip on power, enact democratic and human rights reforms and free the legitimate the leaders of the Burmese people such as Aung San Suu Kyi:

"This legislation was first enacted in 2003 under the leadership of the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and my good friend, Tom Lantos.  Tom spent his life fighting for freedom and democracy for those who could not fully defend themselves.  He is greatly missed here in Congress, but his legacy remains and I have been proud to help carry on his efforts to secure democracy in Burma.

"Former-Chairman Lantos would be pleased that we are considering The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.  This legislation will reauthorize the current sanctions on imports from Burma's military regime for an additional three years as well as maintain the ban on the importation of jade and other gems from Burma.

"I introduced The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act because we must show the military regime currently ruling with an iron fist in Burma that there are consequences for their actions.  Burma's military regime has carried out a brutal campaign against its own people. It has destroyed 3,000 villages, forced 1 million people to flee as refugees, used rape as a weapon of war, and pressed millions of civilians into forced labor – modern-day slave labor.

"The junta has also rejected recent diplomatic outreach, which would have been well-received in the global community.  Specifically, the junta refused United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to release political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the nonviolent movement for democracy and human rights in Burma.

"Not only did the junta refuse Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, they even refused Ban Ki-moon’s request to meet with her.

"The Burmese regime must be stopped. If passed, The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will supplement President Obama’s actions on May 15th – when he renewed investment prohibitions against the Burmese military regime that began under President Clinton.

"The United States is not alone in using sanctions as part of a diplomatic strategy to help promote change in Burma.  The European Union renewed its Common Position on sanctions and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others have unilaterally imposed their own restrictions. 

"Aung San Suu Kyi and the other legitimate leaders of Burma have also called on the world to impose sanctions on their country, just as Desmond Tutu and the leaders of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa called for sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s.

"We must maintain our sanctions against the junta in Burma and I call on all of my colleagues to vote for the renewal of The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act."