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Letter to the Hon. Nikki Haley, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations - Young, Merkley Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling for Action on Burma Crisis


Ambassador Haley,

In light of the Burmese military's deplorable violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority, we write to reiterate our profound concern and to join you in calling for immediate action. Numerous witnesses report that the Burmese military is systematically burning villages and murdering and raping civilians. As a result, over the past month, more than 500,000 people have fled from Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh. We share your assessment that the Burmese government is conducting a "brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority."

We appreciate the work you've done to bring attention to this issue, including your strong statements in recent weeks condemning the violence and calling on "all members of the Security Council to support the Burmese government in ensuring the rights and dignity of all communities in Rakhine State and throughout Burma." Continued strong statements from the United States are crucial, as we continue to bring awareness and leadership to this critical issue.

We must now implement tangible actions against the Burmese government to end the violence, help the Burmese people, and make clear that there will be consequences for those who commit such atrocities against civilians.

More specifically, we join you in demanding that the Burmese government immediately end its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya; permit safe access to Burma for journalists, humanitarians, and United Nations fact-finding mission personnel; and work to address the root of this conflict by affirming support for the report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. We also ask that you call for the removal and prosecution of individuals responsible for these atrocities.

Assuming that the Burmese government will not take these steps without significant international pressure, we would like to work with you to suspend all international military weapons transfers to the Burmese military and to impose strong multilateral sanctions against specific senior Burmese military officials associated with the gross human rights abuses.

We also ask that you request the United Nations launch an investigation to document human rights abuses that will facilitate holding perpetrators in the Burmese government and its security forces accountable.

To accomplish these objectives, we encourage you and Secretary General Guterres to travel to Burma and Bangladesh to bring attention to this crisis. We also ask you to push for a strong United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

To build on the Department of State's efforts thus far, including excellent work by our embassies in Bangladesh and Burma, we urge President Trump to use existing authorities to appoint a Special Representative and Policy Coordinator, with the rank of ambassador, to coordinate U.S. policy in an expeditious manner and to persuade the United Nations Security Council and individual countries to support these steps we have outlined. In order to avoid any further delays in responding to this urgent situation, the individual's portfolio and experience should enable the Special Representative to focus effectively on this issue and coordinate an interagency, multilateral, and cross-regional approach.

Thank you again for your strong statements on this issue. Consistent with the United Nations Charter, U.S. national security interests, and the universal humanitarian principles we support, we stand ready to work with you to implement your call to action. We appreciate your coordination with Congress and encourage you to keep Congress closely informed regarding United States and United Nations efforts as this situation develops.