Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced a joint resolution with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to renew the United States import ban on Burma for an additional year.
The import ban was enacted by the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The ban may be renewed annually until the ruling military regime makes “substantial and measurable progress” towards ending violations of human rights, releasing all political prisoners, allowing freedom of speech and association, and permitting the peaceful exercise of religion.
In addition, the import ban may continue until an agreement is reached between the military regime, the National League for Democracy and Burma’s ethnic minorities on the restoration of a democratic government.
“Until the regime changes its behavior and embraces positive, democratic change, we have no choice but to press on with the import ban as a part of a strong sanctions regime,” said Senator Feinstein. “With the last so-called elections, the names may have changed – but the faces, and the lack of democracy, human rights, the rule of law – remain the same.”
On November 13, 2010, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the democratic opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest by the Burmese military junta. In the 1990 general election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 59% of the national votes and 81% (392 of 485) of the seats in Parliament. However, she had already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest in Burma for 15 of the 21 years from July 20, 1989 until her release last year.
“While we celebrate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, we recognize that Burma is not yet free and the regime has failed to take the necessary actions which allow for the import ban to be lifted. Her release was wonderful news for those who have been inspired by her courage, but that joy was tempered by the fact that her release came just days after fraudulent and illegitimate elections for a new parliament based on a sham constitution. The regime’s intent was clear: keep the voice of the true leader of Burma silent long enough until they could solidify their grip on power using the false veneer of a democratic process.
“The United States should continue to renew sanctions in an effort to force the regime to release all of its political prisoners and engage in reforms that will lead to democracy, the rule of law and respect for the human rights of all Burmese people,” continued Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein also urged the Obama Administration to put additional pressure on the ruling military junta by exercising the authority for additional banking sanctions on its leaders and followers as mandated by Section 5 of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts Act.
Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced a companion resolution in the House of Representatives.
A copy of the Feinstein/McConnell resolution is available here.