America should lead in saving the Rohingya

Attacks against the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship under Burmese law, are not new. They have faced decades of repression, discrimination, harassment and violence. In recent months, thousands of Rohingya have been slaughtered, countless women and girls have been gang-raped, civilians have been burned alive, and villages have been razed. Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of horrific cases, including that of a 15-year-old girl who reported being tied to a tree and raped repeatedly by a group of armed men. Other survivors described children and the elderly locked in their homes and burned alive.

For more than three decades, America stood with our allies to support democracy in Myanmar and demand freedom for thousands of Burmese political prisoners. That unified stand ultimately led to the election in 2015 of the country’s first civilian government after a half-century of direct military rule. Unfortunately, such promising progress has been squandered.

We need to show equal resolve now to stop the violence and safeguard the rights and freedoms of all Burmese peoples. The United States should take the lead in four ways, and ask our partners and allies to join us.