US Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon as part of his travel to Burma. Following the meeting, Crowley responded to the release of political prisoners and other developments:
“Today I had the great honor to meet with one of the world’s most admired leaders and champions of democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been a determined advocate for reconciliation and we had a good discussion on how we can help to encourage further reform. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a personal hero of mine and someone I have admired for many, many years. She is also a hero to people throughout the world, including to the Burmese-Americans living in my district in New York and across the nation.
“Today’s release of a significant number of political prisoners by Burma’s leaders is a step forward. During my meetings with government leaders, I pressed for the release of all prisoners of conscience and an end to all human rights abuses, especially against ethnic minorities. I welcome Secretary Clinton’s decision to initiate the process of appointing an ambassador as a measured response, and I will continue to press for further reform in Burma.”
Rep. Crowley becomes the first member of Congress to meet with families of political prisoners, including families of some of the prisoners who were released today.
In 2008, Rep. Crowley authored legislation to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian honor in the U.S. During today’s meeting, Rep. Crowley presented Aung San Suu Kyi with a red-line copy of that bill along with a replica of the Statue of Liberty – a symbol of his home state of New York as well as that of freedom and democracy.
Following his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Crowley met with members of ethnic nationalities to hear their concerns and thoughts on the way forward. In addition to meeting with families of political prisoners yesterday, Crowley also met with several government officials in the capital city of Naypyitaw.
In addition to leading the successful effort to award Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal, Crowley also spearheaded the effort to strengthen sanctions on Burma’s military leaders through the Block Burmese JADE Act and authored legislation to renew the ban on all imports from Burma contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.