Washington, DC – This week Congress is expected to consider tightened, targeted sanctions against Burma, where a recent violent crackdown shocked the conscience of the world. Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the author of the sanctions legislation, asked his colleagues to mark International Human Rights Day today by committing to support the measure.

“Two months ago, the murderous regime in Burma unleashed unprecedented cruelty against its own citizens,” Lantos said. “Troops shot unarmed protestors. Truncheon-wielding police bloodied peaceful monks. And thousands, including human rights hero and Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, remain detained to enforce a campaign of fear and intimidation.

“Burma’s generals fund this repression of their own people by selling off the country’s natural resources, especially oil and gems, leaving the Burmese people in poverty,” Lantos noted. “To ensure that the United States stands up to these thugs, the House is considering smart, targeted sanctions to cut off their funding.”

The Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act (H.R. 3890) will stop Burma from importing blood rubies into the United States, freeze the assets of Burma’s leaders and prevent American taxpayer money from subsidizing business activities in Burma by the few U.S. companies that continue to support the regime.

“As we commemorate International Human Rights Day, we should stand with the people of Burma as they strive for freedom and democracy,” Lantos said. “We who wish to defend the defenseless have to hit the regime where it hurts – in the pocketbook.”

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.