Crowley and Chabot Introduce Legislation Linking U.S. Military Assistance to Military Reform in Burma

Jan 16, 2014 Issues: Foreign Affairs

Human rights benchmarks must be met before advanced military training

Measure would permit initial human rights training, disaster assistance

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) announced the introduction of the Burma Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2014 (H.R. 3889), legislation that would tie U.S. military assistance in Burma to measurable human rights advancements and military reform.

The Crowley-Chabot legislation would prevent the United States from providing or expanding military assistance to Burma’s Armed Services, with the exception of human rights training and civil justice reform carried out by the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies or urgent disaster assistance, until benchmarks on human rights and defense reforms are met by the Burmese military. These benchmarks include free and fair elections, reform of the military-dominated constitution, an end to human rights abuses committed against the Burmese people, and the establishment of civilian oversight of the armed forces.

“The United States Armed Services should not provide advanced assistance to the Burmese military until it is clear that the Burmese military is carrying out genuine military reform,” said Rep. Crowley. “We need to proceed very carefully – this is an unreformed military working under an unreformed constitution that operates outside of civilian control. Many more changes are needed before the U.S. military gets involved in military and security assistance programs.”

The United States provides military training to a number of countries around the world through the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

“Now is not the time for IMET in Burma,” added Crowley.

The United States has already lifted a wide range of sanctions on Burma following limited democratic reforms. However, those reforms have not yet addressed the Burmese military’s political veto power in the country, and human rights abuses committed by the military continue in the country’s ethnic minority areas. At present, Burma’s democratic opposition and others are spearheading a push to reform the country’s constitution, a document which was written under the previous military government and adopted in a national referendum that was widely seen as a sham.

“America’s policy toward Burma has long supported efforts to encourage democratic reform and end the regime’s decades of human rights abuses,” said Rep. Chabot. “Over the past two years, we have witnessed unexpected and hopeful changes in that country, and as a result, the U.S. has responded with actions that continue to support the people of Burma in their struggle for political and economic freedoms. However, we should not directly engage Burma’s military until we are sure that both the Burmese government and the military have taken appropriate actions to end human rights abuses and make necessary constitutional reforms. This legislation is needed to ensure U.S. efforts to help the people of Burma succeed and that political and economic reforms in that country continue.”