Ahead of Elections in Burma, Crowley and Chabot Lead Letter to State Department Regarding Post-Elections Assessment

November 6, 2015
Press Release

Members Express Concerns About Structural Issues in Elections, Urge State Department to Consider State of Human Rights in Assessment

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), leaders in the House on Burma, led a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing significant concerns ahead of this weekend’s elections in Burma and urged caution in assessing the outcome of the election.

“Having followed Burma for many years, we thank all those who are doing their best on this election as well as those individuals and groups who choose to operate in the spirit of a democratic election. Unfortunately, the underlying structural issues mean the elections simply are not free and fair. To what extent this election will result in democratic change is very much unclear, and though we believe change is possible we also are aware of recent backsliding or stalling on fundamental reforms. We will be closely monitoring Burma in the weeks and months ahead, and continue to believe that future progress on ties between the United States and Burma should be contingent on real change with respect to core human rights and democracy concerns,” said Crowley and Chabot.

Specifically, the letter points to structural limitations in Burma’s constitution – written under military rule and adopted through a farcical vote – which gives major powers to the military, including guaranteeing the military at least 25 percent of the seats in parliament. The letter also highlights a constitutional provision specifically designed to prevent opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from ever serving as president.

Further, the members express deep concern over the state of human rights in Burma, including the government’s effort to institutionalize hatred of Muslim minorities through the race and religion laws, warnings on the potential of genocide against Burma’s Rohingya minority, and the government’s incarceration of peaceful activists that are critical of the military.

In addition to Crowley and Chabot, the letter is also signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee Chair Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA).

The letter can be found here.