Marching to Genocide in Burma
Thomas H. Andrews & Dan Sullivan
United to End Genocide
24 March 2014
This excerpt is taken from the report’s Executive Summary. To see the full report, click here.
United to End Genocide completed a four week fact-finding mission to Burma on March 16, 2014. What we discovered was alarming. Nowhere in the world are there more known precursors to genocide than in Burma today.
Hundreds have been killed with a death toll mounting daily, tens of thousands have fled under the most hazardous conditions, and 140,000 have been forced into horrible, overcrowded camps where they face severe restrictions and are denied basic necessities including medical care.
Deteriorating conditions have put Burma on a downward trajectory that could end in the world’s next genocide without immediate action by the United States and the international community.
One hundred and forty thousand Rohingya Muslims live in conditions of segregation, marginalization and desperation in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Thirty thousand attempted to flee these conditions last year by boat – a rate that has doubled in 2014 – preferring to be victims of human trafficking or death rather than remain in what many described as brutal “concentration camps”.
An alarming rise in ethnic and religious tensions and systematic human rights abuses are being fueled by well organized and financed campaigns of hatred led by extremist nationalist Buddhist Monks. The government of Burma has been linked to these campaigns, has failed to protect Muslims under attack and is seeking to establish even more repressive laws against Muslims.
During United to End Genocide’s visit, the government abruptly terminated all services by the only provider of health care for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine State – the Nobel Peace Laureate organization Doctors Without Borders. The death toll from this decision mounts daily with no end in sight.
United to End Genocide’s President Tom Andrews met with dozens of Rohingya and their families whose lives depended on these services. Many were waiting to die. Andrews’ recounted his experience: “I was followed by children in each of the eight camps that I visited housing 90,000 Rohingya. Hello! Hello! Hello!’ they shouted as they ran to follow me. But their bright faces belied the suffering that surrounded them and that their older siblings, parents and grandparents described in heartbreaking detail. Hopelessness, resignation, fear, anger, frustration and bitterness were all evident: ‘Your country is our only hope’ I was often told. ‘If you will not help us, please bomb these camps. End this, please.”
The international community – and particularly the United States – is in a strong position to alter the course of these events. But, it is failing to do so.
Few within Burma are willing to stand up to repressive government policies or speak out against campaigns of hate and bigotry. But it is clear that government, business and military leaders of Burma value international legitimacy and the opportunities that the opening to the international community has generated. With that comes leverage which can alter the calculations of Burma’s governing and military elite away from the current trajectory of repression, hatred and violence.
What is required is the will to exercise that leverage. But that requires attention and recognition of what remains hidden behind the persistent rosy narrative of Burma’s progress, other world events and indifference to the plight of those in the cross-hairs of the warning signs of genocide.
United to End Genocide is therefore launching a public campaign calling for immediate action by President Obama and the U.S. Congress. It is reaching out to its 500,000 members, its network of allied organizations and human rights advocates, Members of Congress and all men and women of conscience to act now to stop the march to genocide in Burma.
We call on President Obama to take the following immediate steps:
1. Demand that President Thein Sein act immediately to protect the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority from further attacks.
2. Demand that the government of Burma rescind the order expelling Doctors Without Borders from Rakhine State and allow the organization’s 500 staff to reopen all of its health clinics and services which provide the only life-saving care and medicine to which hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have access.
3. Demand that there be a credible investigation of the violence against Muslims – that includes international investigators – and that those found responsible be held fully accountable;
4. Suspend official government-to-government functions including meetings between military leaders until the above-mentioned concerns are addressed. Stop the movement of closer military-to-military relations between the United States and Burma until basic standards of behavior are met. Rescind the invitation of the Burmese Defense Minister to Hawaii for the ASEAN meeting of Defense Ministers April 1-3.
5. Update the targeted sanctions list of Specially Designated Nationals to include anyone responsible for perpetrating violence and announce consideration of renewal of U.S. sanctions and continued suspension of trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences.
We call on the U.S. Congress to immediately pass the bi-partisan HR 418, now pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and respect internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma”.
Click here to read the full report.