Following Hill hearing on Rohingya: Rights group calls on Congress to sanction Burma military leaders and demand they lift their humanitarian embargo of Rohingya in Burma
UUSC to Congress: Do what Trump administration isn’t doing — ‘Hold those responsible for atrocities in Burma fully accountable,’ back international arms embargo
Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, 011 339 236-0679
Shayna Lewis, UUSC, 011 617-301-4333
WASHINGTON, D.C./CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Thursday, October 5, 2017— Human rights organization Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) today called for immediate Congressional action to help save Burma’s Rohingya minority, as the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a public hearing on atrocities being inflicted on Rohingya in Burma. While 500,000 Rohingya recently fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape brutal military attacks on their villages, many of the several hundred thousand who remain in Burma are in peril, as the military blocks food and humanitarian aid from reaching them.
UUSC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Andrews said, “Today’s hearing makes clear that the Trump administration does not recognize the severity of the crisis facing the Rohingya in Burma. Congress must now pass legislation that will do what the Trump administration has refused to do— impose targeted sanctions on the military generals responsible for a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.
“We must hold those responsible for atrocities in Burma fully accountable,” Andrews said. “Congress has the power to enact this legislation and must act now to fill the moral void of inaction. And those targeted sanctions should start with Burma’s Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.”
He said UUSC is urging Congress to press the administration to demand that the generals lift the embargo of humanitarian aid from U.N. aid agencies, allow a U.N. fact finding mission to enter the country, and support an international arms embargo on Burma.
Andrews, a former member of Congress, travelled to Burma and refugee camps in Bangladesh earlier this year and met with dozens of Rohingya families who had escaped to Bangladesh after the first wave of military attacks against Rohingya villages in Burma’s Rakhine State.
Rather than ceasing or slowing their campaign of ethnic cleansing in northwest Rakhine state, the regime’s military have escalated actions in recent days, according to sources inside and outside of Burma.
At the morning Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, V. Kate Somvongsiri, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance for USAID, said that U.N. aids agencies declaring the Rohingya crisis “a Level 3 crisis, along with places such as Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen, should underscore the severity of the situation.”
Since the end of August, more than 500,000 men, women and children have fled assaults by Burma’s military, leaving torched villages and the dead bodies of love ones, into neighboring Bangladesh’s tragically overcrowded camps. Within Burma, the country’s leaders continue to deny humanitarian aid groups’ access to deliver vitally needed food, medical assistance and other aid.
Aid from international sources now is being distributed in Bangladesh camps, but humanitarian workers say much more is desperately needed.
The U.S. is among those providing welcome humanitarian aid to Rohingya in Bangladesh, but UUSC’s Andrews says, “Humanitarian aid is useless if it can’t get to those who desperately need it. We need more than words from the Trump administration. We need action. The military generals who are responsible for the horror must know that they will be held accountable for every life lost. Sanctions need to be imposed now.”
“Our partners in Burma and elsewhere in the region tell us that Rohingya still in the country are being blockaded and are starving. They’re cut off from making a living, cut off from food sources, lifesaving medical aid and any humanitarian aid.
“These atrocities are the building blocks of genocide,” he said. “The U.S. needs to listen to the Rohingya who are in great peril and act to save them. Today’s Congressional testimony by U.S. officials is evidence that the Trump administration does not get it.”
With House members pressing those testifying for direct answers to questions and concrete steps that could be taken immediately, Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline displayed pages of previous sanctions against Burma that had been revoked and asked U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy if the U.S. is looking at renewing those or introducing other sanctions.
“We’re looking at all options … including waivers and other considerations…,” Murphy said.
Following today’s hearing, UUSC’s Andrews said lawmakers should now ask the administration whether or not it would oppose emergency Congressional action to impose sanctions through legislation.