Washington, DC – With the approach of International Human Rights Day, (December 10), Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted that Congress is about to consider a means to cut off funds for the thugs in Burma whose recent violent crackdown shocked the conscience of the world.

“In commemorating International Human Rights Day, we cannot forget the brutality inflicted on peaceful, protesting citizens in Burma this September,” Lantos said. “The murderous regime in Burma unleashed unprecedented cruelty against its own citizens. Troops shot unarmed protestors. Monks were bloodied. And thousands remained jailed as a result of a campaign of fear and intimidation.

“Burma’s generals fund this viciousness by selling off the country’s natural resources, especially oil and gems, while leaving Burma’s people in poverty,” Lantos noted. “So we who wish to defend the defenseless have to hit the regime where it hurts – in the pocketbook.”

Lantos is the author of the Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act (HR 3890), which will halt the Burmese practice of avoiding U.S. sanctions by laundering gemstones through third countries before they are sold here. The bill bans the importation of Burmese jade and rubies into the United States, freezes the assets of Burmese political and military leaders, prevents Burma from using U.S. financial institutions via third countries to launder the funds of those leaders or their immediate families, and prohibits Burmese officials involved in the violent suppression of protesters from receiving visas to the United States. The Foreign Affairs Committee approved the legislation in October. The House is expected to take up the legislation next week.

“As we commemorate International Human Rights Day, those who support the fundamental rights of all humankind must take a stand to prevent barbarism like what we have recently seen in Burma,” Lantos said. “From Cuba to Caracas, in Darfur and Tehran, violence such as this is continuing. We need to take a clear position against such acts of brutality and stand up for human rights in these places, just as we stand with the people of Burma today.”