April 12, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Joint Letter from Community Organizations Calling for Action Regarding Burma to Support Ethnic Minorities and Prioritize Human Rights
Dear Mr. President,
We, 229 organizations and over 19,000 individuals from all 50 states, including Washington, DC, representing resettled refugees and immigrants from Burma who have gratefully found a home in the United States, urgently seek your support for Burma. Since our letter on February 9, we have observed with gratitude your administration’s actions to support the people of Burma. However, the United States and the international community need to do more to truly end the brutal military junta and stop the further persecution of ethnic minorities and Civil Disobedience Movement (”CDM”) protesters across the country.
In the two months since the initiation of the coup on February 1, more than 710 peaceful protestors have been killed by the Burmese military while over 3,080 civilians have been arbitrarily arrested. In Burma’s ethnic states, an already dire situation has only worsened. Mon state has seen an increase in Burmese military attacks, which forced the KNU to abandon their base and villagers to flee their homes in Marnaung village, Dooplaya District. In Shan state, the Burmese military has begun indiscriminately firing into the homes of villagers, killing two civilians in their home on April 8. Similarly, in Kachin state, the Burmese military arbitrarily raids churches and militarizes the surrounding area. Despite announcing a one-month ceasefire, the Burmese military continues to launch airstrikes in Karen state’s civilian-populated areas, displacing over 20,000 villagers since the most recent attack on April 5. Further, Rakhine state still suffers casualties from the Burmese military’s unexploded landmines- an estimated one-third of all deaths from unexploded landmines are reported to be children. In Karenni state, the military has initiated a “refresher course” for public school principals as a means of exerting control over Burma’s education system. In Chin state, reports estimate that close to 200 people have been arrested since the start of the coup on February 1.
The military’s campaign of violence and suppression has driven protestors to seek refuge in areas controlled by ethnic armed organizations. Reports estimate 1,000 newly arrived protestors in Burma’s southeast border area, in addition to the 200 protestors already in Karenni National Progressive Party-controlled areas. Many civilians and police have defected along the northwest border with India, bringing stories of military brutality and repression. CDM protesters are fleeing for their lives due to the military’s disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force.
The United States must act with urgency to prevent the further killing and arbitrary arrest of civilians who are merely exercising their basic human rights. As a crucial and immediate step, the United States should provide humanitarian assistance to those fleeing violence. These funds should go through local civil society organizations working directly with refugees and IDPs, such as the Karen Peace Support Network and Karenni Refugee Committee, and using cross-border channels to ensure the military-run authorities cannot divert or misuse them.
It also is critical to shut off the military’s sources of revenue. The hard currency generated by the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and other extractive industries allows the military to conduct its violent campaigns and uphold its patronage networks. The targeted sanctions that your administration put in place, while helpful, are not truly reaching the deep pockets of the military regime. In addition to the sanctions imposed on the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (MEHL), it is imperative to sanction MOGE and the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank. The U.S. Treasury should also work with other governments and banks to fully enforce money laundering and other laws related to illicit financial flows to reduce the junta’s access to ill-gotten gains.
Much more must be done to address the intense harm the military has caused for the nation and to foster long-lasting peace and stability. The United States must urgently prioritize actions to protect human rights and instill democracy and the rule of law. Accordingly, we urge the United States to exercise leadership and take the following additional actions:
- Impose immediate targeted sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.;
- Provide immediate cross-border assistance, directly to local civil society organizations;
- Suspend all political and financial support to the military regime and the peace process, including to the Joint Peace Fund;
- Exert all possible pressure through every available means, including multilateral, regional and bilateral engagement, to ensure that the military:
- Immediately stops offensives throughout the country, pulls back troops and demilitarizes ethnic areas, respects the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and proceeds with political or tripartite dialogue;
- Immediately and unconditionally releases all arbitrarily detained protesters and political prisoners, including those who won seats in the November 2020 election;
- Immediately restores full and continuous access to the Internet and all forms of communications;
- Allows the parliament elected by the will of the people in November 2020 to take office and allow such duly-elected Members of Parliament to fulfill their mandate without impediment.
We are happy to elaborate on any of the points in this letter and look forward to the United States, our adopted home, taking decisive action to defend democratic norms and support all the people of Burma.
229 Community Organizations
19,000+ individual signatories