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Congressional House Sub Committee Hearing on Human Rights Touches on Burma

  • Hla Than

An open hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations was held Thursday, March 17, examining the State Department's Human Rights 2004 Annual Report touched on the Human Rights situation in Burma.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman of Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations in his opening statement said other annual reports, such as the Trafficking in Persons and the report on International Religious Freedom, shine the spotlight on specific human rights areas which bear closer examination.

Congressman Smith said, "There is a striking similarity between the "black lists" of all of these reports. Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam are all countries that engage in severe violations of religious freedom. Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana,North Korea, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Venezuela are all Tier III countries whose governments have made no significant efforts to satisfy the minimum standards to prevent the trafficking and enslavement of people. It is nosurprise that Secretary Rice's six outposts of tyranny - Cuba, North Korea, Belarus, Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe - also dominate these lists,'"

Acting Assistant Secretary of State Mike Kozak of Bureau of Democrcay, Human Rights and Labor was among those who testified at the hearing.

Aung Din, Policy Director of USCB, US Campaign For Burma, who attended the hearing said, "Assistant Secretary of State Kozak's comments on Burma include how Security forces carried out extrajudicial killings. Disappearances continued, and security forces raped, tortured, beat, and otherwise abused prisoners, detainees and civilians in ethnic minority regions of the country. Arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention were frequent. Security forces also regularly infringed on citizens' privacy, forcibly relocated populations, used forced labor and conscripted child soldiers."

Tom Milanowski, Washington Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch in his testimony said, "On Burma, very little good news. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. More than a thousand political prisoners languish in jail The Burmese government has ended its cooperation with the International Labor Organization on forced labor. The Burmese military continues its campaign of ethnic cleansing in isolated areas of the country, a campaign that merits international investigation to determine if prosecutable war crimes and crimes against humanity are occurring as well as responsibility for those crimes. The only good news about Burma comes from its region. A number of Burma's neighbors, including Singapore and the Philippines, have expressed increasing frustration with the Burmese government's refusal to reform. The criticism is led by elected parliamentarians from the ASEAN countries, who well reflect the values of the people of the region and their desire to see genuine change in Burma."

He also urged the Congress to renew sanctions imposed last year against Burma and asked the Bush administration to urge more proactive leadership on Burma from the United Nations and America's European allies.

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