House Condemns Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 90, which condemns the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and calls for an end to the attacks and immediate restoration of humanitarian access to Rakhine State.
During debate of the measure on the House floor Tuesday, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“For decades, the Burmese government has systematically oppressed the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living in the Rakhine State of Burma. A 1982 citizenship law denies the Rohingya citizenship, even though most have lived in the country for generations. They have been denied freedom of movement, access to healthcare, and education. The Rohingya have been marginalized by every level of the Burmese government, from top to bottom.
Making matters worse, Burma’s military is now engaged in a new brutal crackdown on the Rohingya that the U.S. has rightly deemed ethnic cleansing. More than 600,000 Rohingya people have been driven from their homes in recent months, forced to cross the border into Bangladesh.
Hundreds have reportedly been killed, though with journalists denied access to large areas of Rakhine State, that number is surely higher. At least 200 villages have been burned to the ground. Landmines have reportedly been placed inside Burma’s border with Bangladesh, maiming refugees seeking safe haven. There are reports of rapes and all types of violence committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese security forces.
Importantly, this resolution not only condemns the attacks against civilians by Burma’s security services led by General Min Aung Hlaing, it also reaffirms the crimes committed against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing. Recently, Secretary of State Tillerson made this strong but warranted determination, a decision that deserves our praise.
Bangladesh also deserves credit for opening its borders to this influx of refugees, but its government must honor its promise to build shelter for new arrivals and provide medical services.
In response to this crisis, Secretary Tillerson recently announced an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance for Burma and Bangladesh, bringing the total U.S. assistance there to more than $150 million this year. That’s very much needed.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the de facto leader of Burma, must make it a top priority to provide for the safety of those in Burma, including the Rohingya. The safe and voluntary return of the victims displaced in Bangladesh must also be a top priority.
But to get to the point where the Rohingya will feel safe enough to return to their homes, the Burmese government and military must honor their responsibility to ensure the protection of all the people of Burma, regardless of their ethnic background or religious beliefs. The violence against the Rohingya must stop, and those responsible for these atrocities must face justice.
The protection of human rights has long been our nation’s top priority in Burma, including freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, and today, that must include the Rohingya.
This is a moral issue and a national security issue. No one is secure when extremism and instability is growing in this part of the world.”