SENATOR MURKOWSKI CONDEMNS THE PERSECUTION OF BURMESE PROTESTORS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski today co-chaired a Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs hearing on Burma’s Saffron Revolution and made the following remarks.
I was pleased to join with you Chairman Barbara Boxer and the other members of the Senate Women’s Caucus on Burma in expressing our solidarity with the protestors in Burma and calling on the international community to place greater pressure on the military junta to restore democracy in the nation.
It really is important that those countries with the closest ties to Burma – China, India, Russia, Japan, and members of ASEAN – make clear their rejection of violence and their support for a peaceful political process.
In March 2006, I chaired a hearing in this subcommittee on Burma and the impact, or lack thereof, that U.S. sanctions were having on that country.
When the subject of Burma comes up, we often think of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy party. She is the primary voice for political reform in a nation run by a repressive military junta. Yet, for all the support the international community has demonstrated for Suu Kyi and her party, and the pressure applied in one form or another on the Burmese government, Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and the National League of Democracy’s election victory in 1990 remain unhonored.
Since the student demonstrations in 1988, our policy toward Burma has been to sanction and isolate, with increasing limitations on assistance and trade. Yet the SPDC has effectively minimized the impact of these sanctions by playing interested investors off one another as it offers access to Burma’s considerable natural resources and nations compete to see who has greater influence in the region. The SPDC continues to have access to financial assistance and the means to continue its authoritative rule, despite Burma’s continuous ranking among the poorest of the poor.
With this latest uprising, and its subsequent repression, we see yet again that many of the largest investors in Burma’s are unwilling to go beyond words of condemnation and urging restraint.
Certainly, regional stability is an absolute necessity when considering what the future for Burma holds. There is a difficult balancing act for Burma’s neighbors to carry out. It is our responsibility to engage with the international community to try and find that balance – to find that right mix of sanctions and interaction.
Another issue that I believe needs to be kept in mind as we are looking at the situation in Burma is the role of Burma’s ethnic minorities. Aung San Suu Kyi tends to get the majority of media and political attention, but even if the results of the 1988 election are recognized, or new, legitimate elections are held, that does not solve the armed resistance offered by groups like the Shan State and Karen (Car-in) National Union.
Both China and India are looking to sustain their domestic economic growth. Likewise, one-third of Thailand’s natural gas supply comes from Burma. These nations are eager to avoid turmoil on their borders. For that to happen, a resolution must be reached with the ethnic minority groups.