WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading voice on the Rohingya crisis—issued the following statement after reports that the U.S. State Department will make a formal determination that the Burmese military has been carrying out a genocide against the Rohingya people:
“I applaud the Biden administration for finally recognizing the atrocities committed against the Rohingya as genocide. While this determination is long overdue, it is nevertheless a powerful and critically important step in holding this brutal regime to account. Such processes must always be carried out objectively, consistently, and in a way that transcends geopolitical considerations. Today, the U.S. has demonstrated that it is on the right side of history and stands with the people of Burma, who, in the years since the genocide, have all become victims of the military junta’s brutality.
“I’ll never forget the painful stories I heard from members of the Rohingya community when I traveled to Burma and Bangladesh in 2017—stories of unspeakable violence and horrific crimes against humanity. I left that trip convinced that there was overwhelming evidence that the Burmese junta had committed genocide, and committed to ensuring the U.S. recognize it as such.
“America must never stay silent in the face of grave human rights abuses—and we must make it undeniably clear that when a government systematically persecutes its people and robs them of their basic human rights, there will be consequences. The U.S. has rightfully imposed numerous sanctions on the Burmese regime and its leaders, and, in the wake of this determination, we should continue working to impose clear and steep costs for these atrocities and to cut off oil and gas royalties. America must lead the world to make it clear that atrocities like these will never be allowed to be buried unnoticed, no matter where they occur.”
In 2017, Merkley led the first congressional delegation to Burma and Bangladesh to investigate the Rohingya genocide.
Merkley has repeatedly led calls for a genocide determination throughout both the Trump and Biden administrations, including:
- In a speech on the Senate floor on Feb. 1, 2022;
- In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in August 2021;
- In a bipartisan Senate resolution in March 2021;
- In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August 2020;
- In a bipartisan Senate resolution in December 2018;
- In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in August 2018.