Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—is leading a bipartisan group of 19 senators in urging the Biden administration to issue a Rohingya genocide determination. The senators’ letter marks the fourth anniversary of the genocidal persecution of the Rohingya people, and follows the February 2021 military coup that returned the same army responsible for the genocide to a greater position of power and authority.
“A genocide determination is important not only for the Rohingya, but also for sending a clear message to the military junta and other would-be genocidaires around the world that perpetrators of such crimes will be held accountable. The February 1st coup makes this determination all the more urgent,” the senators wrote in their letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Since overthrowing the civilian government, the Burmese military has extended its brutality to all segments of the civilian population. Nearly 1,000 innocent civilians have been killed since the February 1st coup, including nearly 100 children, and thousands more imprisoned. The military has bombed and raided villages, displacing tens of thousands, as well as blocked aid amid a growing humanitarian crisis. Its actions have also contributed to the rampant spread of COVID-19 across the country.”
“We welcome the Biden administration’s strong response to the coup, including levying targeted sanctions on the military leadership and military-owned enterprises and stepping up aid efforts. But more can and must be done,” they continued. “…The time to recognize the crime of genocide against the Rohingya is long overdue. Failure to do so will only further embolden the perpetrators of ongoing abuses against the Burmese people. It will also undermine the administration’s principled recognition of genocide in other parts of the world if such determinations are not applied consistently.”
The letter follows a number of steps by Merkley to address the escalating violence and instability in Burma. Previously, Merkley helped lead a bipartisan resolution to condemn the military coup in Burma and subsequent violence against citizens calling for democracy, as well as the systematic campaign of persecution and atrocities against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. The resolution also called for a genocide determination from the Department of State and laid out a plan for a coordinated, international response to the disturbing humanitarian crisis in Burma and neighboring states.
In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Gary Peters (D-MI).
The full text of the letter is available here.