Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), today led a group of 13 senators in introducing 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 calls for a genocide determination from the Department of State and lays out a plan for a coordinated, international response to the disturbing humanitarian crisis in Burma and neighboring states.
The introduction comes amid escalating violence and instability in Burma following the overthrowing of the democratically elected government of Burma by the Burmese army—which has, least temporarily, returned the same army responsible for the genocidal persecution of the Rohingya people to a greater position of power and authority.
“I’ll never forget the painful stories I heard from members of the Rohingya community when I traveled to Burma and Bangladesh—stories of unspeakable violence and horrific crimes against humanity,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and authored the resolution. “America can’t stay silent in the face of this genocide—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. So let’s call together our partners of freedom around the world to use critical tools at our disposal to provide a pathway forward for the Rohingya people and put an end to this crisis.”
“For more than three years, the Burmese military has engaged in a campaign of terror and oppression against the Rohingya people, forcing more than a million people to flee their homes. The time for accountability is now, and in light of the military’s recent coup, it is more urgent than ever that the United States label these actions for what they are: a genocide. This resolution urges President Biden to make such a determination, and reaffirms Congress’ commitment to seeking justice for the victims of the Burmese military’s violence,” said Young.
“Democracy is under assault in Burma. Violence and instability continue to grow following the overthrow of the democratically elected government by the Burmese army. And the Rohingya in Burma have suffered severe human rights abuse, been brutally forced from their homes, and unjustly shut out of the democratic process – something I witnessed firsthand during my visit to Burma with Senator Merkley in 2017,” Durbin said. “I’m joining my colleagues to call for a coordinated, international response to this humanitarian crisis.”
The senators’ resolution would officially condemn the February 1, 2021 military coup; denounce the institutionalized and pervasive discrimination against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Burma, which has resulted in the genocide and forced displacement of 740,000 people; and urge Secretary of State Blinken to issue a formal determination designating those actions as genocide. In addition, the resolution calls on the Burmese authorities to allow journalists, human rights organizations, United Nations monitors, and humanitarian actors safe full access to every part of the country in order to ensure that humanitarian needs are being met and citizens, including ethnic minorities, are protected.
The resolution would also address concerning recent reports that Rohingya refugees adrift at sea are being refused safe disembarkation or being moved into holding camps, and provide a framework for a coordinated international response to the genocide. That framework includes governments of neighboring countries providing immediate, direct cross-border assistance, and Bangladesh and other countries in the region providing safe harbor for those fleeing persecution from the Burmese military. The resolution would urge the Government of Bangladesh to grant the United Nations access to conduct independent assessments of conditions in Bhasan Char and verify that any relocation of Rohingya refugees to the island is voluntary and consensual, and call on international organizations, host governments, and donor nations to support improved access for Rohingya refugees to basic services, education, and livelihood opportunities.
Merkley, Young, and Durbin were joined in today’s introduction by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
The full text of the resolution is available here.