WASHINGTON, D.C. – As horrifying acts against the Burmese Rohingya minority and the related refugee crisis continue, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a bi-cameral congressional delegation just completed a fact-finding mission to Burma and Bangladesh. Merkley was joined on the delegation by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) and David Cicilline (D-RI-01).
The Senators and Representatives met with government officials, affected populations, and international organizations in the region, and saw firsthand in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Rohingya communities in Burma the ongoing humanitarian crisis and urgent need for international action to bring an end to the violence and displacement.
“The isolation, discrimination, and persecution must end,” said Merkley. “The U.S. must send a strong signal to the world that there are consequences for governments that commit human rights abuses against their vulnerable communities. Having spoken with Rohingya in both Burma and Bangladesh, we are ready to double down on efforts to work with international partners to end the violence and address the refugee crisis that has spread across the region.”
“The systematic campaign of violence and discrimination against the Rohingya is a horrifying humanitarian crisis,” said Durbin. “As reports continue to trickle out of countless attacks, mass killings, and rapes, we must be crystal clear that the United States we will not tolerate persecution of these innocent men, women, and children.
“The persecution of Rohingya in Burma is a humanitarian crisis that has shocked the world and demands robust American leadership,” said McCollum. “The message of our trip is clear: we will not tolerate violence, discrimination, and human rights abuses anywhere in the world. I also hope that we will send a strong message that the United States must do our part to assist the refugees who have fled Burma as they work to rebuild their lives.”
“An ethnic cleansing is happening in full view of the international community. We cannot sit idly by. Silence is complicity,” said Schakowsky. “The Rohingya Muslim population in Burma is actively being targeted and attacked for their beliefs and ethnicity. Women are being raped, children are being murdered, and entire villages are being burned to rubble. I hope that with our trip, we will be able to send an unequivocal message: that the eyes of the world are on this region, that we support the Rohingya people, and that we are seeking a solution to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”
“The United States has always, and will always, stand up for the rights of oppressed people. The ongoing attacks against the Rohingya are horrific. We must act to end this humanitarian crisis as soon as possible,” said Cicilline.
The delegation called on Burma to address the root causes of the conflict and address the plight of the 600,000 Rohingya refugees. Specifically, the Senators and Representatives called on the government of Burma to take the following steps:
- Full implementation of the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s advisory commission on the Rakhine state. The delegation noted that that Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted the recommendations and appointed an implementing commission and international advisory board.
- Full access for humanitarian organizations. Currently only the International Committee of the Red Cross has access.
- Freedom of movement and a path to ending discrimination.
- A fair path to securing full citizenship rights.
- Work with Bangladesh and the UN for voluntary and safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees, who should have the ability to go back to their villages and farms, with guarantees of safety. The delegation also called for refugees to receive assistance rebuilding homes and community facilities that have been burned.
- A full investigation and accountability for the atrocities that have taken place.
The delegation described their visits and calls for action at a press conference on Tuesday in Yangon, Burma. Please click here for a video of the press conference.