Testimony by Daniel Sullivan on Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar

On September 27, 2017, Refugees International Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in a hearing titled “Burma’s Brutal Campaign Against the Rohingya.”

The hearing was chaired by Congressman Ted Yoho and also included testimony from: Walter Lohman, Director, Asian Studies Center, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, The Heritage Foundation; Michael F. Martin, Ph.D., Specialist in Asian Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, Congressional Research Service; and Andrea Gittleman, Program Manager, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Chairman Yoho, Ranking Member Sherman, today’s important hearing could not come at a more crucial time. There is a tragedy of historic proportions unfolding at this moment in Myanmar. More than four hundred thousand people of a single ethnic group, the Rohingya, have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in less than a month. That is more than one-third of the total number of Rohingya that were living in the country up to a month ago.

The Myanmar military continues to relentlessly attack Rohingya villages, burning homes, beating, stabbing, and shooting the inhabitants, and leading survivors to flee for their lives. Doctors and humanitarian workers have reported widespread cases of rape. Hundreds, if not thousands of Rohingya, have been killed.

“There is a tragedy of historic proportions unfolding at this moment in Myanmar… There is no question that crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing are taking place.”

There is no question that crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing are taking place.  This was obvious three weeks ago, when RI first publicly accused the Myanmar military of such atrocities.

I know this is happening because I heard the stories myself. Only a few days ago, I returned from visiting Bangladesh to speak with Rohingya who recently fled to ask them why. What I heard was a litany of abuses along a common strain: soldiers surrounding villages, using various incendiary devices to set fire to homes, at times locking or throwing people inside the burning structures; young women singled out to be taken away and raped; days long flight by foot and/or boat across the border to Bangladesh, arriving with just the clothes on their backs.

RI’s president, Eric Schwartz, a former White House official and Assistant Secretary of State for Populations, Refugees, and Migration, traveled with me to Bangladesh to meet the newly arrived Rohingya. Together we visited several camps and a hospital where we saw young girls and boys who had suffered gunshot wounds, burns, and physical injuries and emotional trauma inflicted by the Myanmar military. Eric has said that, over a three decade career, he’s been on dozens of humanitarian and human rights missions, but doesn’t remember choking up on any of them – until this particular trip. The situation, he told me, is one of the worst he’s ever seen. I can only concur.

I thank Members of Congress, including Members of this Committee, for speaking out on behalf of the Rohingya. But mere words are no longer sufficient, Mr. Chairman. The time for action is now, and I will lay out in my testimony what action Congress should take immediately.”