U.S. House Approves New Burma Sanctions

Excerpts from a House Foreign Affairs Committee press release:

Washington, DC – The House of Representatives today unanimously passed tough legislation authored by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, to squeeze the brutal military junta now ruling Burma.

The Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act (H.R. 3890) will block the importation of blood rubies from Burma into the United States and prevent American taxpayer money from subsidizing business activities in Burma by U.S. companies – most notably, Chevron.

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H.R. 3890 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.

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By blocking the import of Burmese gems into the United States and expanding financial sanctions, the legislation will take hundreds of millions out of the pockets of the regime each year. The measure is supported by the 11,000-store Jewelers of America, and major retailers such as Tiffany’s and Bulgari have voluntarily implemented a ban on Burmese gems.

The legislation passed today also cuts off tax deductions for Chevron’s major gas investment in Burma, closing a large loophole and increasing pressure on America’s allies to demand that firms based within their borders also divest themselves of Burma holdings.