Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today protested a presidential decision to waive sanctions against people supporting the Burmese regime that President Bush had approved by law last summer.

“I am disappointed at the decision to waive sanctions against all unnamed persons subject to the JADE Act, and believe it is contrary to the law Now those who are supporting the Burmese military clique and who have not yet been publicly identified by the Treasury Department will get a free pass – just what Congress was trying to prevent. It is puzzling that a President who has professed support for Burmese advocates for freedom has made a decision in his final days in office that was both unnecessary and so contrary to his past actions.”

Congress passed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act (H.R. 3890) last July to stop Burma from importing jade and rubies into the United States, freeze the assets of Burma’s leaders and prevent the subsidizing of business activities in Burma by the few U.S. companies that continue to support the regime.

The law is intended to halt the Burmese practice of avoiding U.S. sanctions by laundering gemstones through third-party countries before they are sold here. In addition to blocking their importation, it freezes the assets of Burmese political and military leaders and human rights abusers, prevents Burma from using U.S. financial institutions to launder the funds of those individuals or their immediate families, and prohibits them from receiving visas to the United States.