House Passes Bipartisan Protect Democracy in Burma Act

March 18, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2021) - Today, the House of Representatives passed the Protect Democracy in Burma Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative David Price (D-NC), Chairman of the House Democracy Partnership, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Co-Chairman of the House Democracy Partnership. The legislation demonstrates bipartisan congressional concern regarding the military coup in Burma. It was considered by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and reported to the full House in February 2021.

“The rapidly deteriorating situation in Burma caused by the Burmese military calls for a forceful response by Congress and the U.S. government,” said Price. “Not only has the military junta brazenly rejected the will of the Burmese people, who democratically elected a civilian-led government, but the military’s escalating and increasingly violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, members of civil society, journalists, and even emergency medical personnel is cause for immediate action. The very foundation of Burmese democracy and, consequently, the country’s international standing, hang in the balance. The passage of the Protect Democracy in Burma Act of 2021 is a first step to swiftly engage with our international partners to condemn the military coup and support the restoration of the leaders and representatives democratically elected by the people of Burma.”

“Min Aung Hlaing has put his political ambitions before his country and people. This military coup has not only set back the country’s democratic trajectory but also snuffed the hopes of the Burmese people for a better future,” Connolly said. “The United States and international community have roundly condemned the military’s actions and taken various steps in response. With this bill, Congress too signals its steadfast support for the Burmese people, their democratically elected leaders in detention, and the future of a democratic Burma.”

“Self-governance and respect for the rule of law is at the cornerstone of any democracy,” said Buchanan. “The military coup in Burma is a clear attack on these core principles and is a devastating setback for the Southeastern Asian nation. I am pleased to see the House taking action and asserting its steadfast support of the Burmese people and their democratically-elected leaders.”

It is estimated that 26 million people voted in the country’s 3rd nationwide parliamentary elections, and the National League of Democracy won in a landslide in what was determined free and fair elections. Unfortunately, on February 1, 2021, Burma’s military seized control of the government in a coup d’état and detained democratically elected leaders and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Protect Democracy in Burma Act would establish as policy of the United States to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their member states to condemn the coup, urge the unconditional release of detained leaders and civil society members, and support a return to democratic transition. It also instructs the United States Government to use its voice, vote, and influence at the United Nations to hold accountable those responsible for the coup. Finally, the legislation states as the sense of Congress that the Burmese military has effectively nullified international collaboration aimed at strengthening the country’s Parliament, to include its friendship with the House Democracy Partnership.

The House Democracy Partnership (HDP) works directly with parliaments around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.  HDP approved a legislative strengthening partnership with Burma in 2016. Price and Connolly joined the first congressional delegation, which was organized by HDP, to meet with the new civilian-led government, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and civil society leaders in May 2016.

Text of the resolution is available  here.