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Report on Burma-North Korea Arms Trade Compels Need for U.S. Sanctions, Passage of Burma Human Rights Legislation
Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, (339) 236-0679
Shayna Lewis, UUSC, (617) 301-4333
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C./CAMBRIDGE, MA –Wednesday, March 28, 2018 – Reactions to a United Nations report on Burma’s continued military trade with blacklisted North Korea fueled the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s (UUSC) resolve to pressure Congress to act on Burma. Legislation now in both houses would hold accountable the perpetrators of systematic human rights violations and ethnic cleansing occurring in Burma.
The legislation, says the human rights organization, is the best leverage the United States has to engender Burma’s end to its continued atrocities and human rights violations against hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority Rohingya.
UUSC has consistently called for U.S. and international action against Burmese discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and violence that has recently driven more than 647,000 Rohingya to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, and which escalated last August 2017.
“We heartily applaud House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., for escalating the call for sanctions against Burmese officials,” said UUSC Vice President and Chief Program Officer Rachel Gore Freed. In statements to the Associated Press, Representative Royce decried Burma for “buying arms and propping up the North Korean regime.”
UUSC’s Freed further commended Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., a co-sponsor of the Senate bill on Burma (S.2060), for Cardin’s reminder that ending proliferation collaboration with North Korea was to be “one of the first returns on U.S.-Burma engagement,” yet even as the United States lessened sanctions, Cardin said, “there are continued revelations of their business dealings with North Korea.”
Freed also affirmed Cory Gardner, R-Colo., chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, for his statement that the United States “can’t stand idly by and watch this military trade with the tyrant in North Korea.”
The UN Security Council report, recently made public, states that Burma has received ballistic missile systems, multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles from the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). An unidentified member state confirmed that Burma has an ongoing arms relationship with KOMID, a major arms dealer blacklisted by the United States and United Nations.
“The United States shouldn’t need another reason to intervene in this crisis and sanction Burmese officials. But if the regime’s continued purchase of serious arms from North Korea is what it takes to get the U.S. legislation passed, we’ll take it,” Freed said.
In November, bipartisan bills were introduced in the Senate and House calling for sanctions against Burma and its military. At the heart of the matter: The lives of nearly a million Rohingya with no homes, no state. In February, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018 out of committee. The legislation currently awaits a full floor vote, which UUSC and other rights activists have been advocating for.
“There is no reason for Congress to delay passage of this legislation any further,” she said.
In addition to facilitating humanitarian assistance to the affected areas, sanctions proposed by the legislation would re-list companies and specific Burma military officials on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Person(SDN) list. This designation would prohibit them from conducting any business or financial transactions in the United States until the Burmese government meets specific human rights guidelines for just treatment and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya, as outlined by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.