Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 24, 2004

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Political & Economic Developments in Burma
Rep. Leach schedules Thursday hearing on one of

‘intractable’ foreign policy challenges


BACKGROUND: The Union of Burma, governed by a military junta that seized power in 1988, presents one of the most intractable diplomatic and security challenges in Asia. Burma’s regime shows scant regard for human rights. Forced labor and suppression of ethnic minorities in border areas have resulted in an exodus of some 140,000 refugees, with at least 600,000 internally displaced. The economy - plagued by power shortages, lack of foreign exchange, unsound banks and high inflation - would be close to collapse but for the military-controlled and tolerated trade in illicit narcotics. Burma’s educational system is in a shambles, and HIV/AIDS grips the country. Since 1988, the U.S. has advocated using international pressure as the best means to bring about a restoration of democracy in Burma. In July 2003, the U.S. implemented a bilateral trade ban, but comprehensive multilateral sanctions are non-existent. China supports the junta through arms sales and foreign aid. India, concerned about rising Chinese influence, has also courted Burma. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, which Burma joined in 1997) has generally favored constructive engagement with the regime. Thailand is also promoting a new Burmese “road map” leading toward “disciplined democracy.”   

WHAT: Oversight Hearing: Developments in Burma
Subcommittee on
Asia and the Pacific, U.S. Rep. James Leach (R-IA), Chairman

WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Thursday, March 25, 2004

WHERE: Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES: Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State; Matthew P. Daley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia & the Pacific, U.S. Department of State; Daw San San, Member-Elect of Parliament, NLD Burma; Thomas Malinowski, Human Rights Watch; Veronica Martin, U.S. Committee for Refugees; David I. Steinberg, Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University; and Morten B. Pedersen, International Crisis Group.

Among the questions expected to be raised by the hearing:

bulletCan economic and political sanctions prove decisive in encouraging progressive political change in Burma?
bulletIs it the intention – stated or unstated – of the military regime to eliminate democratic reformers in Burma?  If so, is the United States providing sufficient and effective assistance to Burmese pro-democracy advocates?
bulletIs U.S. policy sufficiently calibrated to take into account our multiple interests in Burma, ranging from promoting democratic governance and respect for human rights to combating HIV/AIDS and encouraging regional stability?

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