Urge Congress to Hold the Burmese Military Accountable for Ethnic Cleansing

Since August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the Rakhine State, a region on the western border of Burma. The survivors made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh, a three-day trek from their home villages, where they now face daily challenges accessing food, health care, and basic living conditions. Even as the violence has subsided, the Rohingya still do not have civil or political rights in Burma and many of their villages were destroyed, preventing them from returning to Burma. After the recent military coup, ethnic minorities face additional risks and safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees is an even more challenging prospect. 

The U.S. government should support the Rohingya people and hold the perpetrators to account by passing the bipartisan Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2022 or BURMA Act (H.R.5497/S.2937).

Urge your Senators to condemn the genocide, hold those responsible accountable, and support the survival, safety, and restoration of rights for the Rohingya people. 

Background

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority in Burma who have historically faced persecution in the region. In late 2017, the Burmese military escalated violence against the Rohingya people, including the burning of villages and mass murders of entire communities. This crisis quickly became one of the world's fastest-growing refugee emergencies.

Nearly one million Rohingya live in refugee camps in Bangladesh after escaping crimes against humanity and genocide in Burma. Approximately 700,000 Rohingya fled Burma in 2017, joining the over 300,000 refugees in Bangladesh, some who have been there since the 1970s. Global leaders must work to restore human rights and dignity for this stateless population. The United States has an opportunity to play a role in holding accountable the people responsible for the mass atrocities taking place in Burma, providing humanitarian and reconciliation assistance, and ensuring the restoration of full civil and political rights.

This mass atrocity took on increasing urgency in 2018 as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a UN Fact-finding mission, and the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), the non-partisan law firm contracted by the State Department to conduct the extensive investigation and legal analysis of the atrocities, all issued statements or reports concluding that genocide was committed in Rakhine State.On March 21, 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that the Burmese military's 2016 and 2017 campaigns of murder, rape, torture, and other heinous acts constituted genocide.

The Burma Unified through Rigorour Military Accountability Act (BURMA Act) of 2022 (H.R. 5497/S. 2937) would promote democracy and human rights in Burma, implement sanctions as accountability mechanisms for the genocide and coup that took place in Burma, provide humanitarian assistance and reconciliations and tolerence programs, and ensure that the rights of Rohingya are restored before any repatriation efforts and that the voices of the Rohingya are part of any future negotiations or settlements. On April 5, 2022, the House of Representatives pass the BURMA Act.

Join us in calling on the Senate to pass the BURMA Act of 2022 and stand against the persecution of the Rohingya people and assist the Burmese people in restoring their democracy. 

Jewish Values

As a Jewish community, we bear witness to the ongoing humanitarian crisis plaguing the Rohingya people in their quest for safety and human rights. Their persecution echoes Jewish experiences across time and place, and it compels us to take further action. In Leviticus, we are commanded, "You may not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed" (Leviticus 19:16). As Jews, we know all too well the price paid when good people do not act to protect the victims of discrimination, persecution, and crimes against humanity. It is our Jewish responsibility to advocate for the security and rights of the most vulnerable people and to never stay silent when crimes against humanity are unfolding right in front of us.

For More Information

For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s International Religious Freedom webpage. You can also contact Legislative Assistant Shayna Han.

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