Levin Floor Statement on Violence Against Rohingya

Dec 5, 2017 Issues: Foreign Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2017                                   Contact: Nick Gwyn, (202) 225-4961

Levin Floor Statement on Violence Against Rohingya


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) today made the following statement regarding a resolution condemning ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Burma ( H.Con.Res. 90):


(Remarks as Delivered)


“I rise today in support of this resolution. 


At the same time, I want to raise concerns about the overall thrust of the resolution. This resolution makes it clear that the military in Burma is the main perpetrator of the crimes committed against the Rohingya people. In November, Secretary Tillerson called the violence against the Rohingya “ethnic cleansing,” holding the military responsible. 


Some have urged that Aung San Suu Kyi does not control the military, and there is a danger that the military would use the present crisis as a way to dismantle the civilian government.

It is also been said that the civilian government is working within a deep traditional bias against the Rohingyas, and some see them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.


Others point out that pressure on the civilian government could lead to Burma moving closer to the Chinese.  Still others point out that talks about the Rohingyas returning to Burma must be afforded time to work out, and the process has only begun. 


But none of these factors must undermine the realities of the persecution of the Rohingyas.  As an UN officials has stated, it is “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”


The Pope was under great pressure to not mention the Rohingyas by name.  He expressed his deep concerns while visiting the country. And later in Bangladesh, the Pope being specific, said that “None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation,” and called for “decisive measures to address this grave crisis.”


A few years ago, I was part of the CODEL organized by Leader Pelosi to Burma.  One of the highlights of the trip was meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been freed after almost two decades of house arrest.  We discussed her unique role in moving Myanmar toward a nation of freedom, human rights and peace.

The resolution earlier introduced by Senators McCain and Durbin expressed the overriding need for the world to step up to the plight of the Rohingyas.  I introduced the same resolution in the House.  These resolutions reflect what the many esteemed historical figures have said. 

·         Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis, said “Silence in the face of evil, is itself evil.”

·         Desmond Tutu said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” 

·         Elie Wiesel said “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

·          And Martin Luther King said that the “…[an individual] who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”