This week marks the second anniversary of the brutal attacks against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State by the Burma (Myanmar) military, forcing over 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The military has also committed atrocities against Christians in the Shan State, the Kachin State, and in other areas as well. Patriot Voices Executive Director Nadine Maenza recently visited Burma with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in her capacity as Vice Chair of the Commission. She also visited the refugee camps in Bangladesh where over 1 million Rohingya Muslims live in slum type conditions.
Most of the Rohingyas she met shared how the military came in the middle of the night, attacked their families, burned down their homes (sometimes with elderly or sick family still inside), often raping the girls and women. Most had a family member killed during those few days: a husband, wife, sister, brother, parent, child. There are even reports of babies being taken from their mothers and thrown into the fire.
When Burma came out of 60 years of military rule in 2011, most were hopeful that religious freedom conditions would improve as the military began a power sharing agreement with a civilian government. In 2015, former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi became the civilian leader of this majority Buddhist country. Unfortunately, Buddhist nationalism has grown with radical monks using hate speech to incite violence against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities. To the disappointment of many, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has not condemned the hate speech or the violence. The United Nations has said this violence has "hallmarks of Genocide," with the U.S. government calling it "ethnic cleansing." USCIRF has recommended the harsher designation of "Crimes against Humanity" or even "Genocide."
The military continues to commit violence against the Muslims that remain in Rakhine state and elsewhere, and also against Christians in the ethnic areas and around the country.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the The Burma United through Rigorous Military Accountability Act condemning the violence, adding sanctions on businesses run by the military, and even putting individual sanctions on the military leaders who oversaw the atrocities. Now we need the U.S. Senate to pass the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019 (S. 1186) introduced by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore).
The Senate has so far refused to act. It has been a mistake for the international community to ignore these atrocities in order to protect Suu Kyi and the civilian government. Instead, their silence has allowed the military government to increase its power, which has only increased their human rights violations.
If we do nothing, we are sending a chilling message to the world that governments can commit the worst atrocities against their own people with no repercussions.
No one is suggesting we should send in troops or push for regime change, but we can sanction the military leaders who oversaw the atrocities as well as the military run businesses that enrich them. This is a way to punish the leaders without ruining the economy that would hurt the average citizen.
It takes just 2 minutes using this tool to send an email to your U.S. Senators as well as Republican Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to pass this important bill. Thanks for standing with those who are persecuted and suffering simply because of their religion or beliefs.