A picture of Representative Eliot L. Engel
Eliot E.
Democrat NY 16

About Rep. Eliot
  • Condemning Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya and Calling for an End to Attacks in and an Immediate Restoration of Humanitarian Access to Rakhine, Burma

    by Representative Eliot L. Engel

    Posted on 2017-12-05

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    ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this measure. Let me, first of all, thank my good friend and fellow New Yorker, Mr. Crowley; and our former chair of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, Mr. Chabot, for authoring this important resolution. I also want to thank Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for his sustained focus on this tragedy and his leadership in quickly bringing this measure to the floor.

    Mr. Speaker, we continue to see reports of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh and widespread hunger and malnutrition for those left behind.

    The Burmese military and security forces are waging a brutal campaign of violence against unarmed civilians, including women and children, killing, raping, and destroying lives and livelihoods.

    The Rohingya people have been marginalized for decades, but the unthinkable violence and human suffering since August is ethnic cleansing, pure and simple--a description the Trump administration now agrees with, although they were far too slow to say so--and possibly even genocide.

    {time} 1415 Over the past 4 months, more than 600,000 men, women, and children have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to find refuge in a country with tremendous needs of its own. This is more than 10 times the number of refugees the administration will allow into the United States this year, the same administration that ended America's participation in the U.N. effort to develop a global compact on migration, all this right in the middle of the world's most serious refugee crisis in history. I say shame on us. We should be doing more.

    Bangladesh deserves our deep gratitude for opening its doors to the Rohingya at a time when our government slams the door shut. The Governments of Burma and Bangladesh have struck a deal to begin repatriating Rohingya next month, but it is not clear that anyone is interested in returning right now. In fact, there are reports of more arrivals in Bangladesh each day on fishing boats for those who can afford passage and on makeshift rafts for those who cannot.

    People are leaving Burma out of fear; they are leaving because they are hungry; and they are leaving because they know, if they stay, they will die. The Burmese Government has not yet set appropriate conditions for the voluntary, dignified, and safe return, including allowing an independent United Nations fact-finding mission and addressing citizenship issues.

    The United States Congress has long defended the rights and freedoms of the Burmese people, championing Burma's new leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during her many years under house arrest, supporting Burma's historic 2015 decision, and remaining a committed partner in Burma's ongoing democratic transition. With the measure before us today, this body will continue to speak out on this issue. We support freedom and respect for human rights in Burma.

    This measure condemns the horrific actions of the military and security forces, calls for an immediate cessation of its violence, and urges the restoration of humanitarian access. It also calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to exercise moral leadership, something that is needed now more than ever.

    We reject the army's claims that what is taking place in Burma is a so-called counterterrorism measure. That is nonsense. It is textbook ethnic cleansing; that is what it is.

    We should also encourage other governments to stay engaged and continue to address the pressing needs of these refugees, needs that will only grow as long as this situation remains unresolved.

    Lastly, we must also urge our own administration to hold members of the Burmese military and security forces accountable for these atrocities, and I have introduced sanctions legislation to do just that.

    Mr. Speaker, I support this measure, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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