United to End Genocide completed a four week fact-finding mission to Burma on March 16, 2014. What we discovered was alarming. Nowhere in the world are there more known precursors to genocide than in Burma today. Hundreds have been killed with a death toll mounting daily, tens of thousands have fled under the most hazardous conditions, and 140,000 have been forced into horrible, overcrowded camps where they face severe restrictions and are denied basic necessities including medical care.
In a report released today, “Marching to Genocide in Burma”, they find that deteriorating conditions have put Burma on a downward trajectory that could end in the world’s next genocide without immediate action by the United States and the international community.
Documented murderous attacks fomented by radical Buddhist monks have killed hundreds, forced tens of thousands to flee the country, and driven 140,000 into internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. The government of Burma has ordered the Nobel Peace Laureate organization Doctors Without Borders to shut down all medical care operations in Rakhine State, home to an estimated 800,000 Rohingya, including the camps.
The situation in Burma could soon result in genocide if the United States and the international community fail to act immediately.
One hundred and forty thousand Rohingya Muslims live in conditions of segregation, marginalization and desperation in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Thirty thousand attempted to flee these conditions last year by boat – a rate that has doubled in 2014 – preferring to be victims of human trafficking or death rather than remain in what many described as brutal “concentration camps”.
An alarming rise in ethnic and religious tensions and systematic human rights abuses are being fueled by well organized and financed campaigns of hatred led by extremist nationalist Buddhist Monks. The government of Burma has been linked to these campaigns, has failed to protect Muslims under attack and is seeking to establish even more repressive laws against Muslims.
During United to End Genocide’s visit, the government abruptly terminated all services by the only provider of health care for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine State – the Nobel Peace Laureate organization Doctors Without Borders. The death toll from this decision mounts daily with no end in sight.
United to End Genocide’s President Tom Andrews met with dozens of Rohingya and their families whose lives depended on these services. Many were waiting to die. Andrews’ recounted his experience: “I was followed by children in each of the eight camps that I visited housing 90,000 Rohingya. Hello! Hello! Hello!’ they shouted as they ran to follow me. But their bright faces belied the suffering that surrounded them and that their older siblings, parents and grandparents described in heartbreaking detail.
Hopelessness, resignation, fear, anger, frustration and bitterness were all evident: ‘Your country is our only hope’ I was often told. ‘If you will not help us, please bomb these camps. End this, please.”
The international community – and particularly the United States – is in a strong position to alter the course of these events. But, it is failing to do so.
Few within Burma are willing to stand up to repressive government policies or speak out against campaigns of hate and bigotry. But it is clear that government, business and military leaders of Burma value international legitimacy and the opportunities that the opening to the international community has generated. With that comes leverage which can alter the calculations of Burma’s governing and military elite away from the current trajectory of repression, hatred and violence.
What is required is the will to exercise that leverage. But that requires attention and recognition of what remains hidden behind the persistent rosy narrative of Burma’s progress, other world events and indifference to the plight of those in the cross-hairs of the warning signs of genocide.
United to End Genocide is therefore launching a public campaign calling for immediate action by President Obama and the U.S. Congress. It is reaching out to its 500,000 members, its network of allied organizations and human rights advocates, Members of Congress and all men and women of conscience to act now to stop the march to genocide in Burma.
We call on President Obama to take the following immediate steps to protect the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority from further attacks.
- Demand that Burma immediately rescind the order expelling Doctors Without Borders and allow the organization to reopen all of its health clinics and services;
- Demand a credible independent investigation including international observers and partners into the violence against Burma’s Muslim minority and hold perpetrators accountable;
- Rescind the invitation to the Defense Minister of Burma to attend the ASEAN Defense Ministers meeting April 1-3 in Hawaii and suspend official engagements;
- Update the targeted sanctions list of “Specially Designated Nationals” to include individuals responsible for perpetrating recent violence.
We call on the U.S. Congress to immediately pass the bi-partisan HR 418, now pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and respect internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma”.
Download the full report, “Marching to Genocide in Burma“.