U.S. lawmakers have been commenting on the situation in Burma as the
U.S. Congress advanced legislation to strengthen and renew unilateral
U.S. economic sanctions against the Burmese military government. More
from VOA's Dan Robinson on Capitol Hill.
The House of
Representatives voted to extend U.S. trade sanctions against Burma's
military government for one year, as companion legislation moved ahead
in a Senate committee.
Sanctions prohibiting U.S. imports from
Burma were first put into place in 2003, as a U.S. response to the
refusal of Burma's military go restore democracy and improve human
In Wednesday's floor debate, Democrats and
Republicans rose to support the extension, citing the Burmese
military's use of force against democracy demonstrators last year, and
its initial blocking of international relief aid for cyclone victims.
there can be concerns about the universal effectiveness of unilateral
sanctions, Burma clearly presents a unique situation. There is
overwhelming evidence that Burma continues to blatantly disregard HR
(human rights) and suppress democracy and it is therefore important to
continue the important ban for another yearm" said Sander Levin, a
Republican Wally Herger describes himself as
a skeptic where sanctions are concerned, suggesting that the U.S.
import ban does not appear to have pushed Burma's military toward
democracy and greater respect for human rights.
Despite this, he
says U.S. sanctions must continue because the situation has been
getting worse rather than better. "That said, in light of the events of
the past year I believe we have no choice but to continue these
sanctions, not only to remind Burma's leaders that their actions are
inexcusable but also to communicate to the impoverished Burmese people
that we have not abandoned their cause," he said.
to moving toward renewal of the U.S. import ban, Congress has acted on
the Burmese JADE Act, which closes a gap relating to gem stones
reaching the U.S from Burma through third countries.
the Senate Tuesday after earlier House passage, that measure also makes
members of Burma's ruling military government along with other military
officials and family members ineligible for U.S. visas.
same time, lawmakers stopped short of including a stronger provision
that would have required the U.S. Chevron company to give up its share
of the Yadana natural gas project in Burmese waters.
the JADE Act contains only non-binding language urging Chevron to
consider divestment from the project if the military government does
not move toward democratic and other reforms.
Burma also came up in a separate House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing focusing on China and the 2008 Olympics.
Republican Dana Rohrabacher criticized Beijing for its support of
Burma's military and its involvement in such places as Sudan. "Let's
note, why is the dictatorship in Burma in place? Because of the
dictatorship in Beijing. Burma is a vassal state of the Chinese
Communist party," he said.
The primary House sponsor of U.S.
import ban legislation, Democrat Joseph Crowley, called Wednesday for
the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) and the European
Union to do more to step up financial and other pressure on Burma's
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told ASEAN
leaders meeting in Singapore that it is in the organization's interest
to press Burmese military rulers to begin a dialogue with democracy