Thanks to you, it’s not going to be business as usual in Burma.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was pressing hard for President Obama to lift all remaining economic sanctions on Burma. That would have allowed U.S. firms to do business with Burma’s military – a military that continues persecution and threats of genocide against the country’s Rohingya minority.
Thousands of activists like you joined with us and our friends at Fortify Rights, calling on President Obama to maintain the Administration's sanctions authority. And he did!
The Administration lifted some sanctions against certain banks and companies but because of our voices, they maintained the “blacklist” preventing human rights abusers from doing business with the United States.
We knew we were up against a powerful opponent and that it wouldn’t be easy to counter U.S. business interests clamoring for an open Burma despite that government’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya.
Together with our partners at Fortify Rights, we released a report, Supporting Human Rights in Myanmar: Why the U.S. Should Maintain Existing Sanctions Authority, documenting the Burmese government’s egregious denial of human rights through interviews with eyewitnesses and Rohingya survivors of abuse.
Human rights champions in Congress helped as well, sending a plea to President Obama. And Representative James McGovern (D-Mass.) distributed our report to every member of Congress, asking them to join our call for continued sanctions on Burma.
Your actions mattered the most – without the clear voice of American human rights advocates like you, it would be easy for President Obama to forget the Rohingya and yield to business interests.
Our work is far from over. 140,000 Rohingya Muslims suffer in wretched internment camps, while a million others face systemic persecution and discrimination. And the chorus of business leaders who want sanctions removed altogether will not let up.
As I made clear in an interview with Time.com and in a joint Foreign Policy opinion piece with Fortify Rights – now is not the time to ease up on Burma. The sanctions must be used to pressure government officials including Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose historic election to office signaled hope for the Rohingya.
Sadly, officials in Suu Kyi’s party have said that dealing with the Rohingya will not be a priority of the new government. Indeed, Suu Kyi avoids even saying the word “Rohingya.”
Thank you again for speaking up for the Rohingya. Our combined voices were critical to countering the voice of U.S. business interests, and I know we can count on you to continue being a voice for the Rohingya until they no longer face persecution and fear of genocide.
President, United to End Genocide