WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation this week to re-impose sanctions on the Burmese military in response to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people. The Burma United Through Rigorous Military Accountability Act would: prohibit American military assistance to Burma until the perpetrators of this violence are held accountable; impose trade, visa and financial restrictions on those responsible for these crimes; require reporting on the ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide taking place; support investigations into eventual prosecution of war criminals; and promote economic development in Burma.
“The United States will not stand idle as the crisis in Burma escalates,” said Rep. Chabot. “Increased sanctions on the Burmese military—responsible for the displacement of over 600,000 Rohingya, mostly women and children—signals that the international community is prepared to increase pressure on senior military officials engaged in this ethnic cleansing and will hold accountable those responsible to the maximum extent possible. I hope that the united and concerted effort of my colleagues in Congress encourages the civilian leaders in Burma to take action.”
“The Burmese military and security forces are carrying out ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people while the military-drafted constitution constrains elected civilian leaders in Burma from stopping these abuses. It’s time to reimpose targeted sanctions against the senior military officials responsible for this brutality to send a clear message: this violence must stop, perpetrators must be held accountable, and there must be meaningful civilian control over Burma’s military and security forces.” said Rep. Engel.
Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Ted S. Yoho (R-Fla.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) are also original cosponsors of the legislation.
Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced companion legislation in the United States Senate.
In Depth: The Burma United Through Rigorous Military Accountability (BURMA) Act of 2017
Trade, Visa, and Financial Restrictions
Under this bill, Congress approves a renewal of import and trade restrictions on Myanmar. The bill requires the President to biannually submit an updated list of senior Burmese military officials receiving visa bans and financial sanctions to Congress to ensure all those perpetrating these human rights violations are held accountable.
Restrictions on Military Cooperation
The bill prohibits the United States from supplying security assistance or any bilateral military assistance to Burma’s military until it has been certified that the Burmese government has held perpetrators accountable and ended impunity for human rights abuses. The bill also requires a biannual report to Congress on an assessment of the Burmese military’s progress in developing human rights frameworks, an update on peaceful settlement of armed conflicts and an assessment of the Burmese military’s use of gender-based violence as a war tactic.
The bill urges leaders of international financial institutions to only support Burma projects that have no connection to or do not benefit the Burmese military.
Rights of Returnees
The bill calls on the Burmese government to ensure safe and voluntary return of all those displaced from the Rakhine State.
Strategy for Promoting Economic Development
This bill requires the Departments of State, Treasury, and the United States Agency for International Diplomacy to submit a report on a strategy to support sustainable economic development in Burma.
Report on Ethnic Cleansing, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide
This bill requires the State Department to submit a report to Congress on the ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Burma, including a description of actions by the United States Government to prepare for a transitional justice process for perpetrators and training of Burmese, Bangladeshi and other officials to collect and preserve evidence.
Gathering Evidence for Investigations and Prosecutions
The bill authorizes the State Department to provide assistance to support entities that investigate, identify and document instances of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity as well as the creation and operation of transitional justice mechanisms.