March 21, 2018

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Burmese Ethnic Cleansing, Supporting the Rohingya

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) today announced that a bipartisan Senate resolution condemning the Burmese campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and calling for the “safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return” of the refugees who have been displaced by this violence was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a bipartisan vote with unanimous support.

The senators introduced the resolution in January, as planned repatriation from Bangladesh to Burma was postponed amid fears that the repatriation as planned would be neither safe nor voluntary.

“I am pleased that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed our bipartisan resolution condemning the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” said Senator Young. “The resolution will now advance to the full Senate, and I will continue working with the administration and the international community to hold the perpetrators accountable and ensure refugee returns are voluntary, safe, and dignified.”

“The crimes that the Burmese military perpetrated against the Rohingya are horrific and will haunt us for generations to come,” said Senator Merkley, who led a congressional fact-finding mission to Burma and Bangladesh in November. “In the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees described to me systemic campaigns of rape and murder. Women showed me the scars on their bodies from burns they suffered as their homes burnt around them. Children showed me their drawings of the Burmese military shooting innocent villagers as they fled. After a campaign of such violent ethnic cleansing, we must ensure that any repatriation of the Rohingya to their homeland is voluntary, safe and dignified. And with monsoon season approaching and 100,000 refugees immediately at risk, we have no time to delay in tackling this life-and-death issue.”

“The situation in Burma remains dire as the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and  violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh,” said Senator Kaine. “Though Bangladesh’s efforts to protect these vulnerable individuals have been extremely generous, any plans to repatriate the Rohingya to Burma should be done in a voluntary and dignified manner.  Our resolution makes clear that the U.S. Congress will continue to closely monitor the Burmese government’s treatment of the Rohingya to ensure that the atrocities against them stop and the refugees are safe and treated fairly in Bangladesh or upon their return to Burma.”  

“The systematic human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya people in Burma have shocked all people of conscience,” said Senator McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Nearly 700,000 innocent men, women, and children have been forced from their homes by the Burmese military’s bloody and brutal campaign. Now, as the governments of Burma and Bangladesh move forward with plans for repatriation, many Rohingya fear their return home will be met with more violence. Rohingya refugees should not have to return to the same brutality they once fled. The United States and the international community must ensure that their return home will be safe, voluntary and dignified, and that those responsible for the violence will be held accountable.” 

The resolution is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).