Message from Senator Durbin

Dear Mr. Win:

Thank you for your message about human rights abuses in Burma and Senate Joint Resolution 29 (S.J. Res. 29). I appreciate hearing from you and share your concerns about this situation.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Burma since 1988. In 2003, Congress passed the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act, which I cosponsored. This measure imposes a prohibition on the importation of any goods from Burma until its government makes significant progress toward democracy and respect for human rights. The Act also freezes the U.S. assets of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), prohibits SPDC members and supporters from entering the United States, and requires that U.S. representatives to international financial institutions oppose aid to Burma.

Congress annually votes to reauthorize these sanctions and this year I am, again, a cosponsor. Unfortunately, despite these sanctions, the human rights record of the Burmese regime remains dismal.

China and India have signed deals with the SPDC for substantial purchases of natural gas, and Burma reportedly also earns $1-2 billion annually from the export of illegal drugs. While other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have grown more critical of the SPDC, these two countries still do not support sanctions. China has provided $2 billion in military aid to Burma since the early 1990s, in addition to $200 million each year in economic aid. There also have been reports of military cooperation between Burma and North Korea.

According to the United Nations (U.N.), more than 3,000 Burmese villages have been destroyed by the ruling military junta in an ethnic cleansing campaign. One million refugees have fled the country and an additional 500,000 remain internally displaced. The junta has ignored every ceasefire agreement and continues to attack civilians, use rape as a weapon of war, and conscript children into slave labor. Burma is now home to at least 70,000 child soldiers - more than in any other nation. The junta is holding more than 1,300 political prisoners in jail and has continued the house arrest of Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The public health situation in Burma also is deteriorating because of the regime's interference with the delivery of humanitarian aid and medicines. In April 2007, I joined other senators in sending a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing concern about the situation in Burma and asking him to take a more active role in resolving this problem.

As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, I am committed to the vision of a world in which the human rights of all are respected. I am monitoring the situation in Burma closely, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma and around the world.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator


What they suggest

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First, through a concerted, non-violent protest by all citizens of the country at home and international fora. If it is responded by repression and harsher measures, then, through an armed revolution. Such moves are sure to be supported by all democratic and peace loving countries of the world. (modest)

(The question for above answer was asked by Min Myo Naing using another name in June of 2006.)


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An exiled journalist from Burma, I have taken refuge in the United States with my family thanks to CPJ in New York, UNHCR (Cambodia) and the States Department. I was detained for one and a half year in 1969 for burning effigy of the late dictator Ne Win in the Rangoon University campus during SEA Games Strike. I was also actively participated in 8888 nationwide uprising by taking charge in publishing The Guardian Daily as independent newspaper for 22 days before I resigned from the newspaper as Assistant Editor in September,1988. Fortunately, I was escaped from arresting by the military regime. In 1990, I left for Bangkok where I had an assignment to translate the "Outrage: Burma's Struggle for Democracy". The book was originally written by Bertil Lintner, a Swedish journalist. I fled my country in December 2005 after my life was threatened by the military intelligence service for involving in political movements and had given assistance to foreign journalists who came to Burma. I am still active with the movement for restoring democracy in Burma.