Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo/San Francisco), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today celebrated the passage of H.R. 4286, authored by Committee member Joseph Crowley (D-NY), which would confer the Congressional Gold Medal on Burmese human rights leader and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is a hero of our time, and is exceptionally deserving of this prestigious honor,” Lantos said. “She has devoted her life to the peaceful struggle for democracy and freedom for her people. While I fear that the military thugs currently ruling Burma will not allow her to leave her home to accept the Congressional Gold Medal in person, rest assured that one day, the United States Congress will have the honor and privilege of welcoming this remarkable woman to Washington. I commend my colleague Joe Crowley for his leadership in the effort to confer upon her the proper recognition.”
Aung San Suu Kyi is the only Nobel Peace Prize recipient currently imprisoned. She has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years. She is the democratically elected leader of her country, having led her political party, the National League for Democracy, to win 82% of the seats in parliament in Burma's last election.
“The Burmese junta remains among one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world today,” Lantos said. “From imprisoning the democratically elected leader of their own country to recruiting child soldiers and using rape as a weapon of war, these criminals will stop at nothing to retain their stranglehold on power. Awarding this remarkable woman the Congressional Gold Medal will send a powerful message at a time when it is deeply needed."
Last week, the House passed legislation authored by Lantos to strengthen economic sanctions against the Burmese regime. The Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act (H.R. 3890) blocks the importation of blood rubies from Burma into the United States and prevents American taxpayer money from subsidizing business activities in Burma by U.S. companies.
“The U.S. Congress will not watch silently as the democratic will of the people of Burma is thwarted,” Lantos said. “With the passage of several recent pieces of legislation, we have made crystal clear that the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese people as they continue their struggle for freedom and democracy.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. Past recipients include His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, humanitarian Mother Teresa and former South African President Nelson Mandela.