Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Resolution in Congress to Renew Import Restrictions on Junta

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON—Two identical resolutions have been introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate calling for the renewal of sanctions on the Burmese military junta under the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which its sponsors believe would send clear message that the US is not interested in doing business with such regimes.

Sponsored by influential US lawmakers Joe Crowley and Peter King, the resolution calls for the renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act 2003, which expires on July 26. Cosponsored by 19 other Congressmen, it was introduced on July 4 and has been sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means for necessary action.

In the Senate the resolution has been sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein and Mitch McConnell and consponsored by 15 influential senators including John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden.

In a letter to Congress on Monday, The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)—the national trade association representing the apparel and footwear industry, and its suppliers—applauded the stand by Crowley and King against the repressive military junta ruling Burma by sponsoring such a resolution. Another identical letter was sent to Senators Feinstein and McCain.

“We strongly support this renewal because it will send a clear and unmistakable message that the United States is not interested in doing business with regimes such as the one that brutally enslaves the people of Burma,” Kevin Burke, president and CEO of AAFA said in a joint letter to Crowley and King.

“Despite our efforts, the ruling military junta in Burma has shown no willingness to address the many problems that made these sanctions necessary,” Burke said.

Indeed, as the most recent US State Department Human Rights Report states, “The government detained civic activists indefinitely and without charges.” Moreover, “The government routinely infringed on citizens' privacy and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement,” it said.

Most recently, the international community has been outraged by the junta’s arrest and persecution of the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. Facing trumped-up charges that she violated her most recent house arrest, the long-time advocate of freedom and democracy faces up to five years in prison.

In light of the planned, upcoming elections, the first multiparty election since 1990, when the NLD was declared victorious, many believe the arrest is an attempt to keep Aung San Suu Kyi isolated from the Burmese people, Burke alleged.

“Therefore, we believe that now is the time to reinforce our sanctions tools against Burma’s government. We hope that we can also work together to capitalize on heightened international awareness of the plight of the Burmese people and press our allies in the region and around the world to impose similar sanctions against this brutal regime,” Burke said.

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