Congress

Lawmakers press to keep Myanmar sanctions in defense bill

Statement comes in conjunction with second anniversary of forced migration of Rohingya Muslims

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel is among the lawmakers pushing to keep Myanmar sanctions in the defense bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Top lawmakers are using Sunday’s anniversary of the forced migration of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to encourage defense negotiators to keep new sanctions in the annual defense policy bill.

Legislative language based on bipartisan House and Senate legislation is included in the House-passed version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization, and the members of both chambers leading the sanctions effort are calling on their colleagues to not remove the language in conference negotiations with the Senate. The measure would require sanctions to be imposed on senior military officials.

[Durbin Blasts Removal of Myanmar Sanctions From Defense Bill]

House Foreign Affairs Chairman and Democrat Eliot L. Engel of New York and GOP Rep. Steve Chabot have led the House legislation, with Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana leading the way in their chamber.

“We have worked to advance bipartisan, bicameral legislation to: apply financial sanctions against Burmese military leaders responsible for these crimes, require a determination by the State Department as to the nature of these crimes, and to advance broad-based economic development in Burma. For far too long, the military has exploited Burma’s natural resources for their enrichment, rather than for the benefit of the people of Burma to whom they rightfully belong,” the four lawmakers said in a statement.

The group of four also called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to do more to rebuke military leadership in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, over the treatment of the Rohingya population, many members of which live as refugees in Bangladesh.

“The Secretary of State should label these crimes appropriately, calling them genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity,” the lawmakers said. “Acknowledging what has occurred is a necessary step in achieving some measure of justice for the victims.”

Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued a separate statement Monday citing a United Nations report on atrocities committed by the military of Myanmar.

“The perpetration of murder and rape, and the destruction of entire villages, in addition to other atrocities, led to over 700,000 Rohingya fleeing their home country to neighboring Bangladesh as refugees,” Risch said. “I thank the government of Bangladesh for its generosity in hosting this large refugee population. I urge the Burmese government to ensure proper conditions for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of Rohingya, including the granting of full citizenship and all attendant rights.”

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