President Obama Says “Rohingya”: End Genocide Cites As Important First Step

Calls Now for Economic Pressure to Stop the March to Genocide in Burma

(Washington, D.C.) Calling on President Obama to take strong action to stop the “march to genocide in Burma” after he publicly said the name Rohingya while in Burma earlier today, United to End Genocide urged the President to reimpose the economic pressure that the administration lifted on Burma two years ago if the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority continues.

The President’s public statement followed United to End Genocide's international social media campaign #JustSayTheirName. The government of Burma has stripped the Rohingya of all rights, forced them to live in brutal Apartheid-like conditions and has denied them access to health care. The government of Burma refuses to recognize the Rohingya by their name and has been pressuring the international community to stop making any public reference to them.

Former U.S. Congressman and United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews released the following statement:

“President Obama’s use of the word ‘Rohingya’ today in Burma is a big deal. Publicly saying the name of one of most persecuted groups on earth - despite Burmese government pressure not to - is an important statement and a step in the right direction. But stopping the march to genocide in Burma against the Rohingya is going to require not only words but strong action.

If President Obama’s statement is to be more than a noble gesture, he will need to move forward with action – including the reimposition of the economic pressure that he lifted two years ago if the persecution doesn’t stop.

Denial of the right to self-identify, one of the most basic of internationally established human rights, is just one indicator of genocide. In the case of the Rohingya of Burma, there are many others.

President Thein Sein of Burma continues to break the promises that he made to President Obama during his last visit to Burma two years ago, including the promise to allow the United Nations to open a human rights office in the country. In fact, things have gotten worse, not better for the Rohingya since the President’s visit, forcing more than 100,000 to flee on boats.

Rohingya is more than just a name. It is 1.3 million people and a culture at risk of being erased. The President’s words in Burma today were important. Follow-up action is imperative."

Background: An estimated 1.3 million Rohingya live in Burma including some 140,000 living in displacement camps following violence since 2012. The Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority has faced decades of persecution including ongoing restrictions in their ability to marry, have children, travel, and seek education. The Government of Burma denies that Rohingya exist calling them illegal ‘Bengali’ immigrants and has urged foreign officials not to use the name Rohingya. The right to self-identification is a central principle of international human rights law. President Obama is in Burma for the ASEAN Summit and used the word ‘Rohingya’ despite government pressure no to do so.