Every year the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA) that was passed in 2003 has to be renewed. This is an important time for USCB members to contact their members of Congress and push them to become stronger supporters.
The BFDA denies hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military dictatorship and its cronies. It prohibits products made in Burma from being imported into the United States. Any type of business that you may find in Burma, large or small, has to partner with the military generals who are granted the power to authorize as well as to make profit off of these deals. Hence, by placing economic sanctions on Burma, we are cutting off the financial lifelines of the generals and their associates. If you want to read more about the efficacy of economic sanctions on Burma you can read this article by economist Dr. Sean Turnell.
2011 is a critical year for Burma. The military regime is trying to put on a show to the international community that they have changed towards democracy, but the reality is vastly different.
– Aung San Suu Kyi is free, but there are still over 2,000 political prisoners behind bars. This includes journalists, monks, students, and especially democratic leaders necessary for true democratic transition. Click here for more info.
– The military regime continues to attack ethnic communities. The fighting along the Thai-Burma that began right after the elections in November has not ceased. From January to April there were a total of 359 clashes in Karen State, with more continuing. There were also recent reports of the Burmese Army burning down 7 villages in Shan State, where renewed civil war began two months ago. Ethnic communities are not happy with the new sham government, and are still demanding basic rights. The military regime is continuing to build up their military presence in other ethnic areas as well, with civil war still a vivid possibility. Click here for more info.
– Severe human rights violations continue, with organizations documenting many cases of forced labor, summary executions, land confiscation, rape, and use of child soldiers. Click here for more info
In a recent interview, Burma’s democracy leader and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi insisted: “Sanctions must remain in place. Sanctions should only be lifted when something has changed here [in the country]. There have been elections but the government that has taken over since the elections are the same as those who were in place before the elections.”
What we really need from Congress is not to just to pass the renewal of these sanctions, but to fully enforce them as well. The U.S. could do a better job about keeping blood rubies from Burma from entering U.S. markets. The U.S. could finally fulfill the BFDA and confirm Derek Mitchell as the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator. The U.S. Treasury Department could listen to the BFDA and take the extra steps to work with overseas bank to freeze the junta’s personal bank accounts. These sanctions were authorized by Congress in 2008, but the Treasury department has not chosen to implement them yet.
Keep on calling your Senators. We need to make sure they don’t forget about Burma!