The US House of Representatives has condemned what they termed “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims and called on Myanmar’s leadership to end attacks on minorities in the northern Rakhine state. This is seen as the stiffest congressional criticism of the Myanmar government over the issue which is being described as a major humanitarian crisis.
In a resolution passed on Tuesday, the House of Representatives urged immediate restoration of humanitarian access to the Rakhine state where unrest has forced over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.
“This slaughter must end, and our resolution ought to send a strong message to Burmese leaders that their commitment to restoring democracy will be judged by their respect for the individual rights and freedoms of all people living within Burma’s borders, no matter their faith or ethnicity,” House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said in a statement.
Introduced by Congressmen Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel, the resolution condemned the alleged excesses of the military and security forces and called for an immediate cessation of violence.
“It also calls for Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar’s de facto leader) to exercise moral leadership, something that’s needed now more than ever,” Engel said in his remarks on the House floor yesterday.
“We reject the Army’s claims that what’s taking place in Burma is a so-called counterterrorism measure that’s nonsense. It’s a textbook ethnic cleansing, that’s what it is,” Engel said.
“We should also encourage other governments to stay engaged and continue to address the pressing needs of these refugees’ needs that will only grow as long as this situation remains unresolved,” he said.
Clashes erupted after the August 25 deadly attacks by militants on security forces in the Rakhine State, sparking a major army crackdown on the community.
According to the UN estimates, more than 600,000 members of the minority Muslim group have fled across the border into Bangladesh since then, triggered a grave humanitarian crisis in the country.
“Bangladesh deserves our deep gratitude for opening its doors to the Rohingya at a time when our government slams the door shut,” Engel said.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who visited the refugee camps in Bangladesh last month, said that as Congressional fact-finding mission has noted their visits to refugee camps and conversations with survivors made it clear that the persecution of the Rohingya people in Burma’s Rakhine State is a “severe humanitarian crisis that demands robust” American leadership.
“This resolution is an important first step in demonstrating that Congress will not tolerate human rights abuses against Rohingyas. As our delegation saw, there is a path forward. The Burmese government and military must fully implement the recommendations of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s advisory commission,” McCollum said.
Meanwhile in Geneva, at a special session on Myanmar by United Nations Human Rights Council, the US called for all actors to play a constructive role in resolving the human rights situation and hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.
(With inputs from Agencies)