McConnell: Biden Administration Must Maintain our Commitment to Democracy in Burma

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Burma:

“Today marks the one year since the people of Burma yet again had their future hijacked by a military coup.

“Since this time last year, the Tatmadaw has tried to achieve through open repression and violence what it long sought to achieve from the shadows. They want to derail Burma’s democracy.

“The ruling generals now have the blood of thousands of protestors and innocent civilians on their hands. Thousands more are languishing in prison on political charges.

“Those detained include my friend Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They have also included a number of foreigners, like the American journalists Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster. The Australian economist Sean Turnell remains unjustly imprisoned even now. Even one political prisoner would be one too many.

“The Tatmadaw’s violence in the streets and its desecration of justice in sham courts have been a sad step backward for Burma. Unfortunately, it’s a step that many of us who have paid close attention to the country have feared.

“But one year on, it is encouraging to see the people of Burma rejecting one of their oppressors’ favorite cynical tactics: Trying to stoke resentment and violence between diverse ethnic groups.

“Burma’s ethnic groups are no longer buying it. They see the common enemy that denies them their freedom.

“Millions of people across Burma are rallying together behind the representative National Unity Government.

“They are swelling the ranks of the National Unity Consultative Council in what can rightly be described as a revolution.

“But their bravery and unity may yield little without greater international assistance.

“A year ago, I called on the Biden Administration to impose costs on those who stand in the way of the people of Burma and urged our partners to do the same.

“Along with many in the Burmese diaspora communities that call Kentucky home, I was encouraged by President Biden’s quick condemnation of the coup, the sanctions against two of the junta’s main funding sources, and the efforts to target individual coup leaders.

“But regrettably, these well-intentioned efforts have not been enough. There is more the Biden Administration must do. And there is more that must be done by our democratic partners in the region.

“The Administration should be prioritizing Burma in its diplomacy throughout Asia, especially India.

“Along with our partners, the United States should expand sanctions to further isolate the military and security forces. We should move to expose countries like Russia and China that aid and abet the repression of the people of Burma.

“We must push back on Cambodia, which chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and indicates they may welcome the illegitimate regime to international summits.

“The U.S. and our partners should also provide more direct help to the representative institutions that are trying to protect the people of Burma.  This should include direct, cross-border humanitarian assistance that bypasses the Tatmadaw, institutional support, and capacity-building for the NUG and NUCC.

“Look — the international stakes go beyond Burma itself.

“The Tatmadaw aren’t the only ones who benefit from chaos and injustice reigning in Burma.

“The Chinese Communist Party loathes the idea of a functioning democracy in its own backyard. They’ve been working for years to keep Burma weak and subservient to Beijing.

“And Russia has found a happy customer in the Tatmadaw for surplus arms.

“So, Mr. President, one year on, the people of Burma are paying close attention.

“From prison, from exile, from the streets of its cities, they are watching to see which friends of democracy have their backs. They are watching which champions of human rights remember the political prisoners whom the junta has jailed and the innocent men, women, and children it has murdered.

“I’ve been proud to support the people of Burma on their long journey toward self-government. I’ve been proud to help ensure their struggles are not forgotten.

“America and our partners need to pass this crucial test.

“We must leave no room for doubt about our commitment to democracy in Burma.”