Refugees International urges President Donald Trump, during his upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) address, to demand strong measures to end the ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya people, especially in light of the escalated violence over the past three weeks.
We appreciate that there are many compelling issues on the UN’s agenda. But the United Nations stands for the principle that fundamental human rights should be enjoyed by all, and when there are massive violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing on the eve of the UNGA session, it is incumbent on the United States to address the issues forthrightly.
The Myanmar military has now driven some 400,000 Rohingya from their homes in Rakhine State and at least hundreds have been killed. A military response to attacks by insurgents has been disproportionate and devastating to the broader civilian population, and it is clear that ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are taking place.
Refugees International urges President Trump to announce at the UN General Assembly that the United States will:
Re-impose financial and other economic sanctions on Myanmar that target individuals involved in planning, aiding or carrying out large-scale abuses against the Rohingya people;
Prohibit military to military cooperation with Myanmar until abuses are ended and individuals involved in planning, aiding or carrying out such abusesagainst the Rohingya are held accountable;
Support a multilateral arms embargo on the Myanmar military, as well as ongoing Security Council consideration of the situation in Myanmar; and
Stand ready to endorse a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC), unless the Myanmar authorities create conditions that will permit the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya, and hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses against this community.
Skeptics may argue that the situation in Myanmar is complicated and we should temper our outrage, which is exactly what was said about Rwanda, when the world stood by and hundreds of thousands were killed. The military in Myanmar, like militaries and governments everywhere, are not immune to pressure, and even if governments like China and Russia thwart action in the Security Council that is hardly a reason not to take principled positions that will in fact bring additional pressure to bear.
We also urge President Trump to offer strong words of support for the efforts of Bangladesh to provide refuge for the Rohingya. The President should further urge governments of the world to rally to provide financial support for the humanitarian response in Bangladesh and encourage the Government of Bangladesh to keep its borders open and continue to provide refuge for the Rohingya people.
NOTE: Eric Schwartz issued this statement during a mission to Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled, seeking refuge from gross human rights abuses by the military in Myanmar.