US lawmakers push back Myanmar’s unity government over Rohingya issue

May 9th, 2021  •  Author:   Dhaka Tribune  •  3 minute read

The lawmakers said they were not convinced with NUG’s policy on the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority

Several US lawmakers have voiced against the recognition of Myanmar’s newly formed pro-democracy National Unity Government (NUG) expressing concerns about the group’s exclusion of Rohingya issue.

In a virtual hearing titled the Unfolding Crisis in Burma, US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs members questioned Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations regarding the NUG position on the Rohingya.

The UN ambassador faced some tough questions from members of Congress who probed him about why the 27-member NUG did not include a single Rohingya representative and questioned whether the government would support citizenship rights for the Rohingya.

“I cannot support your National Unity Government, and I will oppose efforts for the United States to support your National Unity Government until you commit to having at least a representative of the Rohingya people and you commit to stopping the genocide of the Rohingya people,” Representative Ted Lieu of California said at the hearing.

“We are confident that ending [the] murderous military regime will pave a way to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges we face related to effective protection and permissions of rights of ethnic, religious, and all other minorities and equality for all,” Kyaw Moe Tun told the hearing.

Kelley Currie, former ambassador at large for global women’s issues, told the hearing that the US should support the NUG, but it should also help empower voices within the Myanmar government to do better on Rohingya rights.

Specifically, Congressman Ben Sherman, a member of the host sub-committee – and his colleagues – wanted assurances that the NUG has a clearly defined policy of inclusion about Rohingya’s right to nationality and the restoration of equal and full citizenship.

Once the military regime is over, he said, the NUG will be better positioned to address the issues “in line with international norms and standards” on human rights and humanitarian law. When the NUG makes way for a permanent government, there will be an inclusive dialogue to find ways to solve the problem, Kyaw Moe Tun said in defence.

“See my questioning of Burma/Myanmar dissent @UN Amb. Kyaw Moe Tun. He speaks eloquently against the coup, but like many democracy advocates from Burma gives disappointing answers regarding #Rohingyas,” Representative Brad Sherman wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Khin Ohmar, the founder and chairperson of the advisory board of civil society organization Progressive Voice, said the US could also pressure the Thai and Indian governments to open humanitarian corridors, which would help critical aid get in and allow people to flee violence in Myanmar.

Rohingya were Myanmar people residing in Arakan or Rakhine state whose citizenship was stripped off in different phases, both legally and violently, by successive Myanmar governments since the late 1970s.

Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bhashan Char.

Most of them arrived here after August 25, 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a brutal offensive targeting the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority.

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