United to End Genocide, a U.S. based human rights advocacy group, called on the Obama administration to take immediate action to help rescue thousands of Rohingya who are floating in the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia fleeing horrific conditions in western Burma. The group also called for the imposition of sanctions on the government of Burma if it continues its relentless persecution of the Rohingya – the root cause of the crisis.
“Immediate action is needed to rescue thousands of Rohingya before the Andaman Sea becomes a floating mass grave,” said former U.S. Congressman Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide, who recently returned from Burma and Malaysia, where he met with families of Rohingya who had travelled by boat from Burma.
“Three immediate steps must be taken by the United States to stem the growing crisis:
- Demand that the government of Indonesia stop towing boats full of innocent men, women and children out to sea.
- Help launch an immediate search and rescue operation that fully utilizes all available U.S. resources to save imperiled lives. There is no time to lose – every hour counts!
- Address the source of this crisis – the systematic government abuse and persecution of the Rohingya.
The Obama administration’s response to this crisis, calling on Thailand and Malaysia to enforce human trafficking laws, has been wholly inadequate and counterproductive by ignoring the root cause of the problem – the persecution of the Rohingya at the hands of the government of Burma.
Pressure on the government of Burma has been lifted even as it increases its persecution and attacks on the Rohingya. The government has repeatedly denied the Rohingya citizenship, restricted their ability to work, attend school, have access to health care, get married or even have children. It has also been complicit in violent attacks against Rohingya villages.
The Administration has an immediate opportunity to send a clear message to the government of Burma. On the eve of the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Person’s report, the government of Burma should be warned that its failure to adequately address the Rohingya crisis will lead to the imposition of sanctions.
The Obama administration should also support the call of Members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) for coordinated action that addresses the root causes of the crises in Burma while providing security for asylum seekers fleeing persecution and conflict.
Some 140,000 Rohingya remain displaced within Burma and over 100,000 have risked their lives at sea in recent years. More than 25,000 have fled in the first quarter of 2015 alone according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Now an estimated 8,000-20,000 Rohingya are adrift at sea. Unless the policies of hate end in Burma, the crisis will only escalate. We must act now to save those stranded at sea and take the steps needed to protect the Rohingya at home.”