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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2003 East Asian and Pacific Affairs Remarks, Testimony, and Speeches

Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 and Executive Order

President George W. Bush
Washington, DC
July 28, 2003

Today, I have signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 and an executive order sending a clear signal to Burma's ruling junta that it must release Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, along with all other political prisoners, and move down the path toward democracy. These measures reaffirm to the people of Burma that the United States stands with them in their struggle for democracy and freedom.

The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act is the result of close cooperation between my Administration and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, especially Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Tom Lantos. Among other measures, the legislation bans the import of Burmese products. The executive order freezes the assets of senior Burmese officials and bans virtually all remittances to Burma. By denying these rulers the hard currency they use to fund their repression, we are providing strong incentives for democratic change and human rights in Burma.

In May of this year, the Burmese government tightened its grip on the people of Burma when it organized an attack on the motorcade of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Since then, Burmese officials have ignored requests from around the world to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD and to re-open NLD offices.

The repression of the Burmese regime contributes to problems that spill across Burma's borders, including refugee flows, narcotics trafficking, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. These problems affect Burma's neighbors, and these nations must play an important role in resolving the current crisis. I urge the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to continue to make clear to the regime that its behavior is inconsistent with ASEAN's standards and goals. Burma should not be permitted to tarnish ASEAN's record as a positive force for progress. I also welcome the measures taken by the European Union and Japan to bring about democratic change in Burma.

The United States will not waver from its commitment to the cause of democracy and human rights in Burma. The United States has raised the situation in Burma at the United Nations Security Council, and will do so again as developments warrant. The world must make clear -- through word and deed -- that the people of Burma, like people everywhere, deserve to live in dignity and freedom, under leaders of their own choosing.


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