Commission Co-Chairs Speak Out on Burma’s Humanitarian Catastrophe
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen James P. McGovern and Randy Hultgren, Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued the following statement in response to the escalating violence unleashed against the Rohingya people by the Burmese military in the aftermath of the August 25th attack on security forces attributed to the illegal armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army:
“As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we condemn in the strongest possible terms both the August 25th attack on the Burmese police and military attributed to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group, and the clearly disproportionate response unleashed against the Rohingya people by the Burmese military. The ongoing violence has killed at least 400 and forced as many as 270,000 Rohingya to flee their homes in Rakhine state and seek safety across the border in Bangladesh. Some have arrived with bullet wounds; some, including children, have died en route. The sheer number of refugees – as much as a third of the Rohingya population in Burma – reignites the very real specter of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Once again the world is confronted with an enormous, unnecessary, man-made humanitarian catastrophe.
“The next steps to be taken in Burma are clear. First, the Burmese military must end its violent campaign against Rohingya civilians. While the government is clearly within its rights to pursue those responsible for the August 25th attack, it must do so in keeping with the rule of law and its obligation to protect the civilian population.
Second, the government must ensure full and unfettered humanitarian access to Rakhine state.
“Third, the government should grant access to the fact-finding mission authorized by the UN Human Rights Council last March, in the aftermath of the last ‘clearance operation’ the military conducted from October 2016 to February of this year.
“Fourth, the Burmese government must move full speed ahead to implement the recommendations included in the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. A top priority must be to end the situation of statelessness of the Rohingya population, which is due to the 1982 Citizenship Law and is a root cause of the poverty and discrimination the Rohingya suffer.
“The U.S. Congress has welcomed on many occasions the political transition in Burma that began with the 2015 elections. But the events of the last few weeks have demonstrated the fragility of that transition and raised doubts about the prospects for consolidating civilian rule. We hope the Burmese government and military will take appropriate steps to end the violence, address the humanitarian crisis, ease regional tensions and continue along the path toward democracy and full respect for the human rights of all its people.”
The Commission held its most recent hearing on the human rights situation of the Rohingya on April 17, 2017.