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

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, February 6, 2006

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What Direction for Human Rights in Burma?
Leach, Smith Schedule Tuesday Joint Oversight Hearing 

BACKGROUND - The situation in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military) presents the international community with one of its most vexing diplomatic challenges in Asia.  Burma has been ruled by inward-looking, nationalist military leaders since 1962, with the current regime coming into power after a violent crackdown in 1988.  Conditions in much of the country are grim.  The ruling regime shows scant regard for human rights.  Forced labor and suppression of ethnic minorities have led to an exodus of 140,000 refugees, with hundreds of thousands more internally displaced.  While Burma’s formal economy is in steep decline, proceeds from the sale of illicit narcotics, timber and gems, as well as oil and natural gas, all help the regime to maintain stability.  Meanwhile, the educational system is in shambles, the public health infrastructure is among the worst in the world, and HIV/AIDS is already widespread and growing.  Since 1988, the U.S. has adopted a principled policy of seeking to use concerted international pressure to help effectuate a restoration of democracy in Burma.  Existing U.S. sanctions were augmented in July 2003 by a comprehensive trade ban.  Although the European Union (EU) and other industrial countries have taken some punitive steps and limited their engagement with the regime, comprehensive multilateral sanctions have yet to be adopted.  In particular, China has supported the junta through arms sales, foreign aid, and robust trade ties.  India has also aggressively courted Burma in recent years.  On a positive note, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, which Burma joined in 1997) has recently moved from a posture of constructive engagement to a more proactive approach toward provoking change.   

WHAT:                             Subcommittee Joint Oversight Hearing: 
                                          Human Rights in Burma: Where Are We Now and What Do We Do Next?

                                          Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations
                                          U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman

                        Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
                                          U.S. Rep. James A. Leach (R-IA), Chairman

WHEN:                             2 p.m., Tuesday, February 7, 2006

WHERE:                           2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES:                    Panel I:

                                          The Honorable Christopher R. Hill,
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs,
                                          U.S. Department of State;

                                          The Honorable Barry F. Lowenkron,
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,
                                          U.S. Department of State;
                                           Panel II:

                                           Mr. Ko Bo Kyi,
Secretary, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma);

                                           Ms. Naw Win Yee,
Shan Women's Action Network; and

                                           Mr. Tom Malinowski,

                                           Washington Advocacy Director,
                                           Human Rights Watch;

Anastasia Brown,
                                           Director of Refugee Programs,
                                           United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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