July 13, 2018

Cardin, Young, Durbin, Colleagues Urge Support for Burma Sanctions in NDAA Conference

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led 14 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees yesterday, urging the chairs and ranking members to support the Burmese military sanctions provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act as the bill heads to conference before Congress is able to send it to the president.

Burmese military officials have been implicated in gross human rights abuses and other atrocities against ethnic minorities in Burma, particularly a horrific campaign against the Rohingya people.

“Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation regarding the Burmese military’s campaign of executions, deportations, mass gang rape, intentional killing of children, arson, the destruction of homes and other personal property,” the Senators wrote. “Both parties and chambers of Congress have been able to unite and take action to craft a strong response to these terrible crimes.”

Joining the Senators on the letter U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Me.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

“The atrocities that the Burmese military has committed over the last year are among the worst carried out by any military in this century. The world is only now beginning to come to terms with the sheer scope and gravity of these crimes,” the Senators continued. “Congress has always played a leadership role on U.S.-Burma policy; we cannot fail to act now.”

 

The Senators’ letter to the Committee leaders and NDAA conferees follows and is available at this link:

Dear Acting Chairman Inhofe and Chairman Thornberry, Ranking Members Reed and Smith, and Conferees:

“We are writing to urge you to retain the widely supported bipartisan legislation in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that enables targeted sanctions on Burmese military officials implicated in gross human rights abuses and other atrocities against ethnic minorities in Burma, and in particular those implicated in the recent horrifying campaign against the Rohingya, which began on August 25, 2017.

“Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation regarding the Burmese military’s campaign of executions, deportations, mass gang rape, intentional killing of children, arson, the destruction of homes and other personal property. Both parties and chambers of Congress have been able to unite and take action to craft a strong response to these terrible crimes.

“This past May, Amendment 43 to the House NDAA passed by a broad margin, with 382 out of 412 votes in favor. The amendment included provisions that mandate the Administration report on Burmese military and security officials responsible for atrocities and take action to impose targeted economic sanctions and travel restrictions. A similar bill in the Senate –the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act– passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously in February 2018. Due to technical and procedural hurdles, a corresponding amendment was not offered for a vote on the Senate NDAA during floor consideration.

“As the NDAA Conference gets underway, we believe it is vital to include the House-passed language targeting the Burmese military in the final, reconciled bill. We therefore urge you to include Title XII, Subtitle G (Sections 1299O-1, 1299O-2, 1299O-3, 1299O-4, 1299O-5) from the House NDAA, which includes reporting on key perpetrators of abuse and the provision of authority to impose targeted sanctions on Burmese military officials found responsible for atrocities. 

“If included in the final bill, this language will enhance the administration’s and Burma’s civilian leadership’s capacity to press Burma’s recalcitrant military and enhance its efforts to better engage with the international community to address these grave crimes and hold perpetrators accountable. Including this language in the final NDAA will also demonstrate U.S. leadership and encourage other governments and multilateral institutions to take similar steps.

“The atrocities that the Burmese military has committed over the last year are among the worst carried out by any military in this century. The world is only now beginning to come to terms with the sheer scope and gravity of these crimes. In this context, we note that the State Department has carried out an in-depth and objective investigation into abuses committed against the Rohingya and will soon make a formal determination on the severity of these crimes. Congress has always played a leadership role on U.S.-Burma policy; we cannot fail to act now.”

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