Update December 14, 2018

Dhaka 8-17 am, 04-August, 2020

US moves closer to declaring genocide in Myanmar

Mirajul Moin Joy

The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs has declared it genocide in Myanmar as its military and security forces unleashed a targeted campaign against the Rohingya people.

Mentioning killing unarmed civilians, raping women and children, burning down villages, and planting landmines along border areas transited by refugees fleeing for their lives, the House of Representatives took a stand on Thursday by passing a resolution declaring these crimes “genocide”.

On the House floor earlier this week, Chairman Ed Royce said, “With this resolution, the House will take the important step of naming the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Burma what they are: genocide.”

The measure also accomplishes a number of other important goals. “It provides a thorough accounting of the crisis, calls out the complicit Burmese Government, urges the Secretary of State to join us in formally declaring genocide and promotes multilateral agreement on that declaration.”

Importantly, the resolution also called for the immediate pardon and release of two journalists who were framed and jailed by Myanmar authorities for shining a light on some of the atrocities by government forces.

The Rohingya people, predominantly of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, are often called the world’s most persecuted minority.

The Rohingya are essentially stateless people, as the Myanmar government refuses to recognize them as citizens – despite the fact that the Rohingya people have lived in Burma for generations, said Royce.

Further, the House chair said, institutional restrictions on the Rohingya have impacted their rights to study, work, travel, access health services, practice religion and even marry.

The most recent wave of persecution began in August of 2017, when Myanmar security forces and civilian mobs began a horrific wave of attacks.

Mass murder, rape and destruction of villages throughout Rakhine State has been documented, Royce.

These atrocities have driven more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes to Bangladesh, bringing the total Rohingya refugee population there to nearly a million.

“Bangladesh has been very generous in accepting all these refugees in the face of such dire circumstances,” said Royce.

The House chairman said, “A year and a half later, the evidence is overwhelming. As I said at our hearing on the subject this past September, it is time that we take the next step in declaring that these crimes amount to genocide.”

In September, the State Department released a report on the stomach-turning, systematic and widespread acts of violence against the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State, but failed to label these atrocities genocide.

The State Department’s investigation revealed countless heart-wrenching pieces of evidence, like the account of one woman who hid in bushes as she watched Burmese soldiers throw infants and toddlers into a river to drown and shot their mothers who tried to save them.

“The United States has a moral obligation to call these crimes genocide. Failing to do so gives the perpetrators cover and hinders efforts to bring those accountable to justice. With this resolution, the House fulfills its part of that duty,” Royce said.

The House chair said Congress has a proud legacy of declaring genocide when warranted – just as they did over two years ago when the House voted unanimously to declare ISIS’ atrocities against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria genocide. “It is time to take this sober step again.”

Royce urged all of his colleagues to join him in supporting this measure and fulfilling their responsibility to reinforce the universal values they hold dear.

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