From the prison-like conditions of sprawling displaced camps in western Burma to the white walls of the U.S. Congress, the faces and stories of the Rohingya people are gaining greater international attention as the U.S. House passed a resolution urging Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), sponsor of the resolution, and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, each gave powerful statements featuring photos of displaced Rohingya taken on a recent trip by myself and our President Tom Andrews, into the Rohingya camps [click here to see slide show from the trip].
In a show of further high-level bipartisan support, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA) and the Minority Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) both spoke passionately in favor of the resolution.
Citing our report “Marching to Genocide in Burma” both Congressman McGovern and Congressman Chabot highlighted the dangerous warning signs of violence and persecution seen in Burma today.
As Congressman McGovern noted, there has been a “dramatic increase in discrimination and violence against them [Rohingya] in the last two years” which must be seen as “part of a larger troubling pattern of violence against ethnic and religious minorities in Burma”.
Since 2012, some 140,000 Rohingya have been displaced and over 200 killed as the Government of Burma not only remains apathetic to their plight but actively continues explicitly racist policies against them.
House Resolution 418 urges the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and to respect internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma.
The passage of the resolution is the result of pressure and action taken by thousands of activists who have contacted their Members of Congress and the White House. It is an important victory in the growing efforts to push the U.S. government to take action to pressure the Government of Burma to prioritize protection of Rohingya and other vulnerable ethnic minorities and to prevent further and larger scale atrocities.
As Congressman McGovern concluded, referencing recent memorials and commemorations of the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and the 20th year since the Rwanda genocide, “Showing support for this bill is one step that we can take today toward fulfilling the solemn pledge to never again.”
This step must be followed by action within the Senate and ultimately by a change in U.S. policy towards the government of Burma. Congressman Chabot has also introduced legislation that would require progress in human rights before further military relations between the U.S. and Burma.
Take action now by joining over 10,000 others who have already sent President Obama a message to take action to stop violence against the Rohingya.
It is time to not only bring the faces of the Rohingya to the halls of the U.S. government but to bring the faces of outrage and concern by the U.S. government to Burma.