Yesterday, Rep. Steve Chabot, Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel introduced a bipartisan measure to declare the Burmese military’s atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority genocide.
This is a straightforward resolution to put the U.S. Congress on record. As Chairman Royce said earlier this week, “confronting genocide of the Rohyinga is a moral issue. And a national security issue.”
The evidence supporting such a declaration is overwhelming. Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department released a report detailing stomach-turning, systematic and widespread acts of violence against the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State. And on Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing examining the administration’s response to the crisis, and efforts by U.S.-backed broadcasters to raise awareness about the atrocities.
Here are a few key moments from the hearing:
There is no doubt this is genocide.
Ms. Van Susteren: “I’ve been there, I’ve witnessed this. Do I think that it meets the definition [of genocide]? I absolutely do – having witnessed it. I mean I talked to people, I walked those camps. …The Myanmar military elected to push the Rohingya out of their country. …But what they did is systematically wanted to get rid of the Rohingya and that’s what they did. …There’s no doubt that it’s done on a mass level.”
This crisis is creating a growing human trafficking problem.
Ms. Van Susteren: “Trafficking…that’s just a growing crisis in there because you’ve got a lot of young girls in there and what happens [is] the brokers come in and that’s a huge problem and it’s only going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. Because what happens is, I talked to someone who was working in the camps and trying to combat it. The brokers come in and they say to these families, ‘Look, send your 13-year-old girl with me. I’ll take her to beauty school in Saudi Arabia or China or something and she’ll send all this money back.’ Trafficking…that is such a problem. It’s a bad problem. It’s not going to get better, so you can put that one on your list.”
Targeted sanctions against Burmese military leaders can work.
Mr. Pomper: “Targeted sanctions against perpetrators of these atrocities is an appropriate consequence and it sends the right message. And it’s something that the United States should pursue. It’s important as much as anything as a signal to future perpetrators both in Myanmar and elsewhere in making it clear that the United States – and others who hopefully it can bring along in this effort – will not let these kinds of crimes go unanswered.”
But China is standing in the way of meaningful, multilateral action.
Mr. Pomper: “One place where China has been unfortunately very effective in a negative way has been in terms of blocking a clear statement by the U.N. Security Council. And the things that the council could do, the tools it could bring to bear probably could be pretty effective in sending a clear signal and applying meaningful pressure through sanctions, through referrals, etc. So I think China is a very, very good target for diplomatic suasion in this case because they are standing in the way of meaningful action and that clear voice you are talking about.”
The media has an important role to play.
Ms. Van Susteren: “I shared disappointment with the U.S. media. Why aren’t we hearing about this from my fellow journalists more? That would help. This is a partnership. The media can’t do it alone, Congress can’t do it alone, nobody can do all this alone.”
And the U.S. needs to lead.
Chairman Royce: “Making a formal determination of genocide must be the next step for the U.S. Defining these atrocities for what they are is critical to building international public awareness – and support – to stop them.”