February 05, 2021

Senators Risch, Markey, Menendez, Rubio Outline Key Steps for Biden Administration to Help Preserve Burma’s Transition to Democracy

Commend administration’s initial response and commit Senate cooperation in support of human rights, targeted sanctions, and international coordination

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the East Asia Subcommittee, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today urged the Biden Administration to take several key steps in its effort to help preserve Burma’s fragile democratic transition after last week’s military coup against the democratically-elected, civilian-led government of Burma, also known as Myanmar.

On February 1, 2021, the Burmese armed forces, also known as Tatmadaw, overturned the results of Burma’s November 2020 elections. They seized power in a military coup and detained the country’s democratically elected leaders, including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Previously, multiple international bodies, as well as investigators associated with the U.S. Department of State, have determined that there is evidence that the military-led abuses against the Rohingya people in Burma constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.

In their letter sent today, the senators outline key steps for the Biden Administration to take in its efforts related to Burma:

  • Urge the immediate release of political prisoners, journalists, and members of civil society detained in association with the military coup.
  • Impose targeted sanctions on the senior leadership of the Tatmadaw and other military-affiliated individuals.
  • Push for multilateral economic and diplomatic pressure with our European and Indo-Pacific allies.
  • Press for quick and serious United Nations consideration of the situation in Burma using the United States’ position on the U.N. Security Council.
  • Remain engaged with partners in Burma, particularly civil society organizations
  • Urge protection of the roughly 600,000 ethnic-Rohingya who still live in Rakhine State inside Burma.

“Given the Tatmadaw’s long history of human rights violations and suppression of democracy, there is no reason to believe Burma’s military leaders will return the country to democratic rule without strong and sustained international pressure,” write the senators in their letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We thank you for your leadership on this matter and stand ready to work with you to respond to this grave turn of events in Burma.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Also signing the letter are Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

###