16 July 2003
Bush Applauds Congress for Passing Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act
Says legislation sends "clear message" to Burmese regime
President Bush in a statement July 16 praised the passage by the U.S. Congress of legislation that would tighten sanctions on the military government in Burma.
The Senate approved the measure July 16 by a 94-1 vote; the House of Representatives approved it July 15. The measure now goes to the President for his signature.
The legislation would require the president to ban imports from Burma 30 days after the enactment of the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.
That ban would continue until the president determines and certifies to Congress that Burma's ruling military junta has made "substantial and measurable progress to end violations of internationally recognized human rights including rape."
To have the ban lifted, the bill requires that the secretary of state consult with the International Labor Organization's secretary general and relevant nongovernmental organizations and report to the appropriate congressional committees that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) "no longer systematically violates workers rights, including the use of forced and child labor, and conscription of child-soldiers."
HR 2330 also requires the president to declare that the SPDC has made "measurable and substantial progress toward implementing a democratic government."
Benchmarks for lifting the ban on Burmese products would include: "releasing all political prisoners; allowing freedom of speech and the press; allowing freedom of association; and permitting the peaceful exercise of religion."
Finally the SPDC would have to reach an agreement with the National League of Democracy and other democratic forces in that country, including Burma's ethnic nationalities, "on the transfer of power to a civilian government accountable to the Burmese people through democratic elections under the rule of law."
The president is also given the power to freeze assets in the United States of the junta and its supporters.
Following is the text of the White House statement:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 16, 2003
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
Passage of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act
The President applauds today's passage of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act by the Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. This legislation sends a clear message to the Burmese regime that their continued detention of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and their assaults on freedom cannot stand. The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act is the result of close cooperation between the Congress and the Administration and is intended to focus the world's attention on the Burmese regime's continuing oppression of its people. The United States fully supports the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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