Senators Markey, Rubio, Cardin, Collins, and Merkley Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Atrocities Against Rohingya in Burma

Washington (December 19, 2018) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today introduced a bipartisan resolution that highlights the horrific acts of violence against the Rohingya people in Burma. Underscoring the ongoing humanitarian crisis that followed the brutal crackdown by Burmese security elements in Rohingya communities in 2017, the resolution calls for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make a determination on whether these crimes constitute genocide. Earlier this month, the Public International Law and Policy Group released a report detailing the atrocities and calling for tribunals for those responsible for the genocide. And an August United Nations report found that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingyas with ‘genocidal intent” and made the case for prosecuting its commander-in-chief and five generals under international law. The Trump administration has yet to label the crimes against the Rohingya a genocide, instead calling it “ethnic cleansing”.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, we must acknowledge that atrocities continuing in Burma meets the definition of a genocide.  However, the voice United States has been silent on this issue,” said Senator Markey. “This resolution demonstrates that the United States Senate is fully committed to upholding the rights and dignities of persecuted minorities, accountability for the Burmese military’s actions, and the promotion of peace and democratic freedoms for the Burmese people. We cannot allow the United States to once again play global bystander as a genocide continues to happen.”

“The United States cannot abandon its global leadership in upholding human rights, dignity, and accountability,” said Senator Cardin. “The atrocities committed against the Rohingya clearly amount to genocide, as documented by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and several other international human rights investigative agencies. We are urging this administration to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the crimes committed against the Rohingya to reach a genocide determination, and promote respect for human rights and accountability for the Rohingya people.”

“The well documented campaign of atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State appears to have been premediated and coordinated by Burmese military and security forces, and should be condemned by the international community for what it was: genocide.  Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Bangladesh amidst horrendous acts of violence and threats of violence, and these refugees carry with them unimaginable stories of cruelty and depravity,” said Senator Collins.  “Our bipartisan resolution, which urges the Administration to make a determination on whether these crimes constitute genocide, would help garner continued international pressure on the Burmese military and government.”

“The Burmese military and security forces have perpetrated horrific crimes against the Rohingya people,” said Senator Merkley. “The stories I heard at the Rohingya refugee camps from survivors of this genocide will be seared into my mind for the rest of my life. We owe it to those survivors and the hundreds of thousands of other oppressed Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State to launch a robust international effort to hold those responsible fully accountable for their crimes. The United States should be leading—not lagging—in that effort.” 

A copy of the resolution can be found HERE.

This resolution also stresses the importance of imposing additional sanctions on senior Burmese officials complicit in carrying out the violence. It encourages Facebook and other social media platforms to counter hate speech that foments ethnic division in Burma. The resolution also encourages the administration to maintain the United States’ leadership in contributing to the humanitarian response that has aided Bangladesh’s efforts to absorb the 730,000 people who fled the violence last year. Finally, the resolution calls for the Burmese government to release Wa Lone and Kyaw Saw Oo, two Reuters journalists who were convicted earlier this year after reporting on the military’s human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

Introduction of the bipartisan resolution follows passage of similar legislation introduced by Representative Steve Chabot (OH-01) that passed last week in the House of Representatives by a vote of 394 to 1.