Pass the BURMA Act

Since the coup in February 2021, violence and unrest have overwhelmed the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, also known as Burma. In the past 11 months since the Tatmadaw (the Burmese military) overthrew Myanmar’s elected democratic government, it has arrested civilians, activists, religious minorities, and journalists; killed over 1,000; halted the economy; and displaced an estimated 170,000. COVID-19 has decimated many communities, with the military blocking access to basic medical care and oxygen. The Tatmadaw has suppressed freedom of religion, both of Christian communities in Kachin, Karen, and Chin States and the Muslim Rohingya community. Multiple reports describe the burning and vandalizing of churches and the imprisonment of pastors. The military is also responsible for burning alive 11 unarmed anti-military guerilla fighters in early December.

Thus far, international action against the junta has included statements denouncing the power grab, small rounds of sanctions, and some critiques. But as the junta increases its atrocities, global efforts to restore the democratic party have rallied. The French Senate adopted a resolution to acknowledge the National Unity Government (NUG), the interim government that elected officials ousted by the junta formed. The European Union has also passed a resolution affirming support for the NUG. In a surprising show of power, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) even withdrew its invite for Min Aung Hlaing, the Tatmadaw’s chief, to its annual summit.

Now, at long last, a more decisive and powerful bill, the BURMA Act, has been introduced into the US Congress to address the crisis. Covering everything from sanctions and import prohibitions to humanitarian aid, the BURMA Act is one of the most comprehensive pieces of proposed legislation to address the coup. Congress, especially Republican senators who have been more reluctant to support the act, should pass the bill quickly to cripple the Tatmadaw and support local efforts for democracy in the region. …

This article was originally published in Providence Magazine. Please click here to continue reading.