Engel Floor Remarks on the Rohingya Crisis
– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks on the House floor in support of a resolution that condemns the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and calls for an end to the attacks in and an immediate restoration of humanitarian access to the state of Rakhine in Burma (H.Con.Res 90):
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I might consume.
“Let me first of all thank my good friend and fellow New Yorker Mr. Crowley and our former Chair of the Asia Pacific Subcommittee Mr. Chabot for authoring this important resolution.
“I also want to thank Ed Royce, Chairman of our 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.
“Over the past four 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 UN effort to develop a Global Compact on Migration. All this right in the middle of the world’s most serious refugee crisis in history.
“So 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’s not yet 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 and 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 now leader, 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 this violence, and urges the restoration of humanitarian access. It also calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to exercise moral leadership, something that’s needed now more than ever.
“We reject the Army’s claims that what’s taking place in Burma is a so-called counterterrorism measure—that’s nonsense. It’s a textbook ethnic cleansing, that’s 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.
“I support this measure and urge my colleagues to do the same. I yield back.”
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