January 29, 2019

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Calling for Release of Imprisoned Reuters Journalists and Safe Repatriation of Rohingya

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a bipartisan group of 20 other Senators today introduced a new resolution calling for the immediate release of imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Lone and Soe Oo were recently sentenced to seven years in prison for their work reporting on massacres that Burmese security forces carried out against the Rohingya. The resolution also calls for accountability and safe repatriation of refugees in the wake of Burma’s atrocities against the Rohingya minority.

“The continued detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo only underscores the Burmese military’s efforts to conceal the atrocities they have committed,” said Senator Young. “I sponsored a similar resolution in the last Congress and I will continue working on this issue until Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are released.”

In the summer of 2017, the Burmese military began a scorched-earth campaign in Northern Rakhine State that killed thousands of Rohingya and forced over 700,000 to flee to Bangladesh for safety. In the time since, the Government of Burma has failed to create the conditions that will allow for the safe repatriation of the Rohingya, including extending the right of citizenship to this long-persecuted group. The United Nations and the United States Holocaust Museum have found that the Burmese security forces’ actions constitute genocide, but the United States has not yet made a formal determination.

In addition to Senators Young and Merkley, the resolution was also sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.). 

The Senators’ resolution calls for:

  • The U.S. Secretary of State to make a determination whether the actions by the Burmese military constitute crimes against humanity or genocide; and to work to impose targeted sanctions on senior Burmese military officials, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. 
  • The Government of Burma to allow full access to Rakhine State and ensure the full participation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in any repatriation plan so that the plan is voluntary, safe and dignified, and includes the voices of refugees. The resolution also recognizes that any forced relocation of Rohingya refugees into temporary settlements, internally-displaced persons camps, or “model villages” would be unacceptable.
  • The government of Burma to nullify the convictions against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo; for the similar charges pending against other journalists to be dropped; and for the immediate and unconditional release of these journalists.
  • The United States to maintain funding and support for humanitarian aid in Burma and Bangladesh.