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Congress Must Act on Latest Opportunity to Address Violence in Burma

The United States’ continued inaction in the face of ethnic cleansing is indefensible.

By on July 10, 2018

On Monday, July 9, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) joined 45 nongovernmental and faith-based organizations in calling on Congress to adopt language into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would implement targeted financial sanctions and visa bans against Burmese military officials implicated in gross human rights abuses and other atrocities against the Rohingya ethnic minority, as well as other communities.

As the situation in Burma (also known as Myanmar) remains dire, it is critical that the United States act. More than 720,000 Burmese refugees have fled to Bangladesh since last August in the face of extreme violence including arson, rape, and indiscriminate killing at the hands of the Burmese military. International pressure is critically needed to address this crisis, and the United States’ continued inaction in the face of ethnic cleansing is indefensible.

In addition to providing for targeted, appropriate sanctions against key Burmese military officials bearing responsibility for atrocities, the pending amendment calls for reforms to professionalize Burma’s military and reduce corruption, conflict, and abuses. It would also bolster Burma’s civilian leadership and help encourage it, along with the United States and other concerned governments, to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable.

We are hopeful that the final NDAA will include this language. It is one way that the United States’ power can be leveraged to end the violence and ultimately lay the groundwork for the peaceful repatriation of the Rohingya, who fled Burma in its wake. There is broad congressional support in favor of this action. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the NDAA amendment to the House bill in May. Similar language, supported by 23 senators from both parties, was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March, however technical and procedural hurdles prevented an amendment to the Senate NDAA bill.

This call is the latest action UUSC has taken to demand that the U.S. government intervene in this crisis. More than 1,200 UUSC supporters have joined us along the way in urging legislators to cosponsor the original bills from which the amendments were derived: the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.2060) and the Burma Unified Through Rigorous Military Accountability Act (H.R.4223).

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