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Call your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor S.1186,

The Burma Human Rights & Freedom Act of 2019

The Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121

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The Issue

On the southern tip of Bangladesh (to the right of India, down from China, Google Maps for visual help), nearly one million Rohingya refugees who escaped Myanmar (neighboring country) fill the world's largest, most densely-populated refugee camp. They are there, attempting to survive in squalid conditions, risking everything as the monsoon season hits and their homes, which are built on muddy slopes, are buried in landslides,

because it is a better gamble than the genocide they have escaped from.

So, Who Are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are Sunni Muslims in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, and are currently considered one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They have been denied citizenship and have been imposed with severe apartheid-like restrictions on everything from travel, to marriage, to employment, health care, and education. 

What Happened to Make Them Flee?

Between October 2016 and August 2017, Myanmar authorities planned and designed a campaign to forcibly remove all Rohingya residents from the Rakhine State.   

Then, on August 25th, 2017,  twenty-seven Myanmar Army battalions, totaling 11,000 soldiers, and at least three combat police battalions descended upon the Rohingya Muslims, shooting those who fled, gang raping women and girls only 5 or 6 years-old, cutting up the bodies of those they killed, burning their villages, and tossing young children into the fires.  Muslim Rohingya villagers watched as their loved ones were tortured and slaughtered before their eyes.

Within a mere ten weeks, the Myanmar forces burned and completely destroyed 288 villages.  While denying the international community entry, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military forces) bulldozed these villages, thereby destroying evidence of what they had done.  

What the UN Found

The UN has listed six top military figures in Myanmar who must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas. The report also sharply criticizes Myanmar's de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop the attacks.


Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement that "undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law". The report also found elements of extermination and deportation "similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocide intent to be established in other contexts".

Myanmar's army is accused of a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. Under the constitution, civilian authorities have little control over the military but the document says that "through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes".

 

Not Surprisingly, Myanmar rejected the report
Myanmar's Permanent Representative to the UN, U Hau Do Suan, told BBC Burmese, "As we did not accept the idea of a fact-finding mission from the beginning, we reject their report."

Issues With the Camp

As of July 2018, an estimated 700,000 Rohingya refugees had arrived in the Cox Bazaar area of Bangladesh in a span of only six months, increasing the refugee population to approximately one-million people and exacerbating population density of the camp.  (Refugee camps are supposed to have 45 square feet per person…The Rohingya are living in camps with an average of only 11 square feet.)

 

Even with the World Food Programme providing some food, large numbers of people are dying of malnutrition and waterborne illnesses.  

More than half of the youth in the camps said their parent/caretaker had been killed, leaving some 6,000 children unaccompanied in the camps - increasing their risk of hunger, exploitation and abuse. 

Between October 2016 and February 2018 so many people arrived so quickly that they scrambled to build latrines. As the rainy season began, many of these poor-quality latrines leaked and overflowed onto the grounds, contaminating 60% of the water supplies.

 

In addition, the existing natural habitat of the Cox’s Bazaar area (where the camps are located), compounded by climate change, and other man-made environmental problems create the hazards of dehydration, water-borne disease, and homes being blown or washed away during the monsoon season.  

Add in the rapid deforestation to accommodate 1,000,000 refugees, increased air pollution from wood fires and automobile traffic associated with the refugees, erosion from deforestation, water contamination and pollution, and it’s safe to say the effects on Bangladesh’s environment and the Bangladeshi people will be long term.

The Solution

Pass S.1186, The Burma Human Rights & Freedom Act of 2019

Click here to ask your Senators to support the bipartisan bill,

“The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019.”, S.1186 , which will

 

  • provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance for the nearly one million Rohingya refugees

  • Create political pressure to stop violence against minority ethnic groups through sanctions and deny of visas to Myanmar’s military leaders who are responsible for these atrocities

  • Reinstate restrictions on “genocide gems” like rubies and jade, whose profits fund Burma’s military

Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121

and urge your Senator to support and co-sponsor S.1186 today.