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The Guardian: America should act to end the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

Washington, November 13, 2017 | comments
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The Guardian: America should act to end the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar
By: Congressman Steve Chabot and Congressman Joseph Crowley
November 13, 2017

For far too many years a mix of repression, autocratic rule and marginalization has led to fear and crisis in Myanmar. The international community ought to pay attention to these atrocities before it is too late.

Myanmar is a diverse country with a long and storied history of tension among its over 130 ethnic groups, which live together in the nation’s 14 states and regions. Nowhere is this racial tension more fraught than in the Rakhine state.

In the Rakhine state, in the north-west corner of the country, the two major ethnic groups are the Rakhine and the Rohingya. They have long been at odds over whether the Rohingya people should stay in the country or be removed and relocated to Bangladesh because of their ethnicity.

Starting in the 1960s and carrying on to this day, the Burmese military have had a policy against the Rohingya that has involved implementing draconian measures against the Rohingya men, women and children, forcing them out of their homes, denying them their citizenship, and severely restricting their basic human rights.

Today, the condition of the marginalized Rohingya people has deteriorated quickly. The treatment of the Rohingya people is now among the worst in the world. 

Despite efforts to address the underlying problems, the state of fear in the Rakhine is the terrifying new normal for hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Of the 600,000 who have fled attacks by the military, security services, and mobs, at least 250,000 are children. The human rights abuses these civilians are being subjected to are well documented and especially severe.

Credible human rights organizations have documented atrocities carried out against the Rohingya people and other civilians. They reveal that hundreds of villages have been burned, women have been abused, and innocent men, women and children have been killed.

It is clear that what is happening is ethnic cleansing – an unrelenting effort to either kill or drive the Rohingya people out of Myanmar. Much more disturbingly, the treatment of the Rohingya bears many hallmarks of historical campaigns of genocide. 

This isn’t taking place in a vacuum. More than one hundred thousand of those from the Kachin and other ethnic groups also remain internally displaced after fleeing attacks by the military, and proposed reforms by the government are going nowhere. The military continues to control too many levers of power and is not subject to civilian rule. In fact, it is quite the opposite: the military still oversees major swaths of the government.

In recent letters to the state department, we have called for action at the United Nations security council, suspending all training of the Burmese military, denying visas to members of the security services, and pressing other countries to end arms sales. But it is also time to go further, by expeditiously imposing sanctions on those involved in human rights abuses.

The US needs to send a clear message that there is no excuse for a cruel, extensive and grossly disproportionate crackdown on civilians. It’s time for further meaningful steps to be taken to bring an end to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Steve Chabot is a Republican congressman from Ohio. Joseph Crowley is a Democratic congressman from New York 

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