Thursday, May 15, 2008

House Approves Burma Resolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Angela Barranco 202-225-3965
May 13, 2008
U.S. House of Representatives Overwhelmingly Approves Crowley Resolution on Burma Cyclone Tragedy
Crowley resolution calls on military junta to accept international aid immediately
(Washington, DC) – The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved by 410-1 tonight a resolution authored by Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) condemning the Burmese military junta for blockading international aid and jeopardizing the lives of millions of Burmese affected by Cyclone Nargis. The resolution (H.Res. 1181) also extends the nation’s condolences and encourages global assistance for the Burmese people. Congressman Crowley, member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and author of the law to award Aung Sun Suu Kyi a Congressional Gold Medal, led the House in a moment of silence in remembrance and delivered the following remarks in support of the resolution:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to the people of Burma for the grave loss of life and vast destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis.
“Burma was hit by the cyclone more than 10 days ago, and its impact has been devastating. To date, it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, it has robbed more than a million people of their homes, and tens of thousands of people are still missing, while millions more are struggling to survive without access to clean water, food, or shelter.
Shamefully, the military junta in Burma, showing no regard for the lives of their fellow Burmese, did little to warn the people in cyclone’s path that it was coming. And, they have done little to help people in its aftermath.
“Instead of providing much needed emergency humanitarian aid to its people, the junta pushed forward with an election to pass their sham constitutional referendum.
“At a time when all resources should have been focused on saving the lives of survivors struggling to find food and clean water to stave off starvation, disease, and death, the regime deployed personnel to campaign in favor of their referendum, man polling stations, and fill state television with images of dancing girls urging people to vote ‘yes.’
“Aside from failing to use its own resources to help its people, the junta would not even accept outside resources to aid the devastated communities in the aftermath of the cyclone.
“Immediately after the cyclone hit, the United States Embassy in Burma authorized $250,000 in emergency assistance. President George Bush also swiftly followed by pledging an additional $3 million, the assistance of U.S. Navy assets in the region, a disaster assessment team, and any additional aid that would be needed. And, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Henrietta H. Fore announced an additional $13 million in aid to Burma bringing the total value to U.S. Government assistance to more than $16.3 million.
“Yet, most of these funds and offers have gone unaccepted. To date, the junta has allowed only one plane load of U.S. emergency aid to enter the country and it is unclear if it has reached the survivors.
“While estimates from international humanitarian organization in Burma reveal that more than 1.5 million people are on the brink of death unless aid reaches them immediately, the Burmese military regime continues to deny international aid works entry in the country.
“Yesterday, at a meeting in Rangoon, a Burmese cabinet minister told relief agencies that foreign aid workers are prohibited from entering the disaster zone and must present all of their supplies to the military for distribution.
“The regime does not have the capacity or skills to handle this major humanitarian crisis, yet it continues to deny visas to disaster assessment teams.
“It has allowed only the smallest trickle of international aid into the country. At this point, in the post-tsunami relief operation, the hard-hit region of Aceh was receiving one aid flight every hour.
“In Burma, the regime is only allowing three or four flights a day after not allowing any in the first five days after the cyclone hit.
“Efforts to ensure aid reaches the survivors of Cyclone Nargis are continually hampered by military official who will not allow aid workers, foreigners, diplomats, journalists, or even ordinary Burmese who want to help their fellow citizen’s access to the hardest hit areas.
“Many of the affected communities have received no aid from the regime, or any aid agency.
“To make matters worse, it is being reported that the junta is also selling aid supplies in local markets.
Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable.
“Just yesterday, China experienced its own natural disaster, a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. Our hearts are with the victims of the disaster but China, unlike the junta, immediately acted to help the victims.
“Countries that have the capacity to react to a natural disaster and provide aid to its citizens have a moral obligation to do so. China’s actions in the United Nations Security Council to prevent efforts to invoke the ‘responsibility to protect’ in Burma is appalling.
“It is truly saddening, but not surprising, to see the Burmese junta turn a blind eye to its people. The United States along with the international community understands the gravity of this situation, even if the military regime does not.
“Even in the wake of one of the most deadly natural disasters, they refuse to provide the proper humanitarian assistance needed to ensure the health and survival of their citizens.
“Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is about making clear to the people of Burma that we stand with them, and that we will continue to push the junta to accept our assistance to help those in need.”

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