Protecting human rights should be one of the main concerns of a country. Whether it is protecting human rights of citizens of their own country or helping protect the rights of citizens of another country, it should be one of the tops concerns. Human rights are very important because they are supposed to protect individuals from governments or other entities that will try to violate their human rights. Nations have the obligation and responsibility of looking after the basic needs of their citizens and to protect some of their freedoms them have. Human rights are for everyone no matter what their status is. They are guaranteed internationally according to the Universal Declarations of Human Rights, which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly. Human rights are protected by law, cannot be taken away, they focus on respecting the dignity of humans, and they protect both individuals and groups. However, human rights are not always protected and can be violated.
Myanmar is a good example of how citizen’s human rights can be violated. Myanmar is a predominately Buddhist country. There is a small amount of other religions in Myanmar. One of these religions that are in the minority are Muslims. Many Muslims in Myanmar are not allowed to vote and many are denied citizenship. One group of people that have been constantly suffering are the Rohingya from the Rakhine state of Myanmar, a western state of Myanmar. The Rohingya are predominately Muslim with very few of them being Hindu. There has always been tension between the Rohingyas and the Buddhists. This tension has led to violence on different occasions. This violence has caused the nationalist Buddhist to go after the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas have their own distinct ethnicity. They have their own culture and language. However, they claim that they have a connection to the Rakhine State that goes back many years. Many people believe the United States has an obligation to respond to this humanitarian crisis that is occurring. Many countries look to the United States when they have crisis because the U.S. are the leaders of the free world. Is Myanmar important to United States’ international human rights policies? I believe Myanmar is important to the United States’ international human rights policies because according to the U.S. Department of State, the promotion of human rights is an important national interest.
Issues in Myanmar
After many decades of isolation, Myanmar introduced many significant reforms since 2011 that has affected the country economically and politically. The National League for Democracy, which is an opposition party of Myanmar, brought back the formal political process. In the elections of 2015, the National League for Democracy won by a landslide and gave the party the majority to both chambers of parliament, even though important ministries in Myanmar has continued to be dominated by the military (Xu and Albert). In response to this new government and change, many world powers have lifted international sanctions. The United States and Myanmar’s diplomatic relationship has relaxed since this election. However, the concerns of the role of the military in Myanmar’s domestic affairs are still present. Concerns of how the government of Myanmar treats the Rohingya Muslims, who are ethnic minorities, is a main concern.
The Rohingya Muslism of the Rakhine State, who were declared as stateless by the Citizenship Law of 1982, have faced the brunt of persecution. In June of 2012, violence broke out between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslism. At least 200 people were murdered and hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes due to the violence that broke out (Xu and Albert). The Human Rights Watch released a report in 2013 that made accusations that the Myanmar authorities committed crimes against humanity. They accused the authorities of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. In Myanmar, the population of the Rohingya is around one million. Unfortunately, the Rohingya are continually denied citizenship of the Rakhine state. They also continue to consider the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar and have showed up in Bangladesh in order to seek shelter from the violence. They have also used boats to flee to other neighboring countries. Unfortunately, in spring of 2015, these countries ordered their navies to refuse the refugees trying to come in, which causes thousands of refugees stuck at sea. In May 2015, Indonesia and Malaysia finally agreed to let in the refugees, with the help of pressure from the international community, until they could find another home in another country. Even though Myanmar agreed with other countries to send out smaller number of migrants, the government of Myanmar denies that they have any connection to the reason why the Rohingyas are fleeing Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League of Democracy and State Counsellor, has not spoken out much of the violence and the persecution that is going on in Myanmar (Xu and Albert). Many people believe that if Aung San Suu Kyi would have addressed the situation of the Rohingyas would have caused her to lose the national elections of 2015. Even though Rohingya Muslims were not allowed to vote in the national elections of 2015 and candidates that were Muslim were not allowed to run in the elections, the way the Rohingyas are treasted and the relationship between the Buddhists and the Muslims continue to be controversial political issues.
U.S. Policy Towards Human Rights
When the United States was founded over 200 years ago, one of the key founding features was to protect human rights. One of the main goals of U.S. foreign policy has been to promote the respect for human rights that have been represented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“Human Rights”). The United States accepts that in order to secure the peace in a nation, human rights must exist. According to the U.S., human rights also helps avert aggression from occurring, promote the rule of law, strengthen weak democracies, combat crime and corruption, and prevent the breakout of humanitarian crises (“Human Rights”).
Since the United States believes that it is an important national interest to promote human rights, one of the things United States seeks to do is to make governments accountable to uphold the obligations they have according to the human rights norms and international human rights instruments (“Human Rights”). The United States also want to promote that human rights should be respected much more than it is now. Some of these human rights that should have more respect include freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and rights of women and children. The United States also wishes to hold countries accountable, promote the rule of law, and change cultures of impunity (“Human Rights”). Another thing that the United States wishes to do is help efforts of strengthening and reforming the office United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nation Commission on Human Rights (“Human Rights”).
According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), there are three key principles that should be applied to the work that is done on human rights. The first key principle is the strive that the DRL has in order to find out the truth and to learn the facts in every human rights investigation they are responsible for. They also have the obligation to give reports on the conditions of countries, and to make speeches and cast votes in the United Nations.
The second key principle of the DRL is that they are required to take positions that are consistent with past, present, and future abuses (“Human Rights”). When it comes to abuses that have happened in the past, the DRL wants to hold countries accountable. In order to cease the abuses that is still occurring, the DRL uses an “inside-outside” approach. This “inside-outside” approach combines vigorous external focus on concerns of human rights with support from internal reform (“Human Rights”). In order to prevent abuses from occurring in the future, the DRL advocates for early warning and preventive diplomacy (“Human Rights”). The DRL makes sure that the military and security assistance programs are given proper training over human rights. They also conduct communication with other governments about human rights issues. With the help of international campaigns, the DRL are also passionate about advocating for women’s rights. These international campaigns are used to promote political participation and full equality for women. The DRL and important allies of the United States have also coordinated U.S. policy on human rights. The Bureau also focuses on important issues and cases with the help of diplomatic and public means.
The third and last key principle of the DRL is that they have partnerships with multilateral institutions, organizations, and governments that are altogether committed to the fight for human rights. These multilateral alliances put the DRL at an advantage because it helps put more focus and attention on these human rights issues occurring around the world and it also seeks to correct the wrongdoings of these countries. At annual meetings of the many international human rights organization, U.S. delegations receive support from the bureau by technical and financial means. On a regular basis, the DRL holds consolations with Native American tribes to make sure their rights are being protected. They also serve as the Secretary’s principle advisor when it comes to international human rights of indigenous people (“Human Rights”). The DRL and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights maintain a relationship in order to help fight for human rights around the world. In order to hold countries accountable for violating human rights, the bureau believes there should be a creation of an effective multilateral human rights mechanism and also the creations of institutions (“Human Rights”).
According to these three principles of the DRL, the United States does have an obligation to protect Myanmar. These three principles also show that Myanmar is important to the United States’ international human rights policies. The United States clearly says that it is important to their national interest to promote human rights. They believe that it very important to hold countries accountable when they violate their own citizen’s human rights. Human rights should be respected no matter what. It what keeps people from have some form of freedom from their government. If human rights did not exist, there would be no sense of morality or respect for life. The world would be very chaotic. The world has already seen the abuse of human rights with the Armenian Genocide and Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. The world knows the outcome of both of these events: many people lost their lives because there was a total disregard for human rights and they were of different backgrounds. The protection of human rights is very important and should be protected at all cost.
At the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2017, the United States announced that they would be providing $32 million in humanitarian assistance (“U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Crisis in Rakhine State, Burma”). One of the main goals of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly was to spread awareness and support of ongoing instances that are in need of humanitarian assistance, especially for people that are fleeing and the communities that are hosting these refugees. This humanitarian assistance would be used to help the needs of the Rohingya that are fleeing the violence that is occurring against them in their state of Rakhine in Myanmar to Bangladesh. This aid would also be given to the people that are displaced internally from different communities within the Rakhine State and also given to the communities in Bangladesh that are hosting the Rohingya.
This new funding that was announced by the United States brings humanitarian assistance to close to $95 million in the 2017 fiscal year (“U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Crisis in Rakhine State, Burma”). The funding will be used on the people that are displaced throughout Myanmar and to refugees from Myanmar. The funding and assistance the United States is giving shows that the United States is committed to help spread awareness of the amount of suffering that the Rohingyas are experiencing and to make sure their needs are being met. The government of Bangladesh is assisting the United States in this matter to make sure the humanitarian assistance reaches the Rohingyas in need.
Unfortunately, many of the resources that the local authorities and humanitarian agencies have been running very low due to the large number of refugees that are coming in to different regions at a very rapid pace. The additional support of the United States will help these local authorities and humanitarian agencies that tight on resources. This additional support includes emergency shelters, food security, nutritional, health, and psychosocial assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene, disaster and crisis risk reduction (“U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Crisis in Rakhine State, Burma”). On top of the humanitarian assistance that the United States is providing, the United States is showing support to all the groups, such as the United Nations and NGOs, and that are providing assistance to the Rohingya cause. The United States encourages other parties and donors to provide additional humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas.
In October of 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke out against the issue and announced that the United States would not remain silent with all the atrocities that are occurring in Myanmar (Crawford). He also explained how the United States holds the military leadership of Myanmar accountable for the tragic events that are unfolding in the Rakhine state. Tillerson also states, “What’s most important to us is the world cannot just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in that area” (Crawford). After seeing many news outlets report on the killings of Rohingyas, burning of Rohingya villages, and the squalid living conditions of the refugee camps, Tillerson believes that the Myanmar military should be held the most accountable and has the biggest responsibility in resolving the crisis. Tillerson stated, “If these reports are true, someone is going to be help to account for that. It is up to the military leadership of Myanmar to decide what directions they want to play in the future of Myanmar” (Crawford).
Humanitarian efforts should always be important to every country and must be taken seriously. There should be strong support of the United States’ decision to lift sanctions in order to support the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Many have thought that the reimpositions of sanctions would create a lot of damage to the democratic process of Myanmar. However, many have ditched this view after the new government showed what they were really like. The United States, along with other countries, must continue their ongoing efforts to help out the Rohingyas.
Expression concerns and condemning world leaders is simply not enough. Direct actions must be taken in order to deal with this unfortunate situation in Rakhine, Myanmar. Leaders around the world should call on Myanmar’s government in order to take certain measure to combat this humanitarian crisis. The United States, with the help of the United Nations, should be the primary nation that leads this humanitarian effort. One thing that United States needs to demand of the Myanmar government is to cease all violent military actions in the country. The United States should also demand that Myanmar publically criticize the military and militia groups for the persecutions of the Rohingyas. Another thing that needs to be demanded of Myanmar is to allow complete humanitarian access in order to provide aid. A political dialogue between the Myanmar government and the Rohingya must be established.
If things continue being the same for the Rohingyas in Myanmar, Myanmar will never be able to get rid of the ugly scares of hatred and discrimination that was aimed towards the Rohingyas. The international community will also continue to be affected by this and will see it’s unfortunate effect if nothing is done.
...(download the rest of the essay above)