Proposed Amendment to The BURMA Act of 2021
Peace and Justice Committee and
Kachin Alliance of USA
The Peace and Justice Committee of the Chin Baptist Churches USA in partnership with the Kachin Alliance of USA welcomes the “Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021”, or the “BURMA Act of 2021” introduced by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), House Foreign Affairs Asia-Pacific Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) on October 5, 2021.
The Peace and Justice Committee and Kachin Alliance support the BURMA Act of 2021 with the understanding and hope that it will pave the way to inclusive political dialogue in Burma, which would be a step toward establishing a federal democratic union. A copy of the BURMA Act of 2021 can be found here.
The Peace and Justice Committee and Kachin Alliance suggest the following amendments, which will strengthen the Bill by accurately representing the current situation, the political aspiration, and the will of the people of Burma.
We encourage you and your Church/ Organization to add your voices to the BURMA Act of 2021 by affirming the amendments proposed by the Peace and Justice Committee and Kachin Alliance. The Peace and Justice Committee and Kachin Alliance will urge the US Senators and Representatives to consider the proposed amendments for inclusion in the BURMA Act of 2021 before it passes in the U.S Congress.
Proposed Amendment to The BURMA Act of 2021
1. Establish A Federal Democratic Union of Burma
It is important to mention of the phrase “federal democratic union,” in the Act and not just democracy. The political crisis in the union of Burma is not only about promoting democracy or human rights. For over a half a century, the Burmese military regimes have been persecuting the ethnic nationalities and the religious minorities. Resolving the political crisis in Burma is about respecting minority rights and autonomy. That is what the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have been fighting for all these years. A “federal democratic union” would help ensure those rights are safeguarded. NUG’s duties include “establishing a federal democratic union” (see building a federal democratic union” under the Duties of NUG, https://gov.nugmyanmar.org/about-nug/). It is important that the bill restores civilian governance and ensures strong oversight over the military, but it should also mention the importance of establishing a federal democratic union that safeguards full autonomy for the internal administration of states or regions.
For instance, the term “federal” should be mentioned in, not limited to, the following sections:
H. R. 5497 – …promote “federal” democracy
A Bill – …promote “federal” democracy
Title I. SEC. 101. (1) to support genuine “federal” democracy
Title I. SEC. 101. (3). (C). assisting in the establishment of a fully “federal” democratic
Title II. SUB. B. SEC. 211. (a): the United States Special Coordinator for Burmese “Federal” Democracy
2. Nullify/Abolish the 2008 Constitution:
The Act should clearly mention abolishing the 2008 Constitution rather than reforming it (see NUG’s duties to abolish the 2008 Constitution). The ethnic political organizations and ethnic armed organizations have the same goal to abolish it. The Act should recommend a new constitution that reflects principles of a federal democratic government for the new Myanmar.
The following sections, not limited to sections mentioned below, both support constitution amendments (reforms) and recommending a new constitution:
Title I. SEC. 101. (3). (B).
Title I. SEC. 101. (3). (H).
Title II. SUB. A. SEC. 203. (b) (4).
Title II. SUB. A. SEC. 205. (b) (4).
3. Do Not Advocate for a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement:
The Act should also not advocate for the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). It ceased being a just and viable instrument for maintaining peace when the military illegally took power on February 1, 2021. If included in the Act, many ethnic political organizations and ethnic armed organizations will strongly oppose it. The Act should instead advocate an inclusive peace process that would lead to establishing a federal democratic union.
For example, Title I. SEC. 101. (3). (H) directly promote “national reconciliation and the conclusion and credible implementation of a nationwide cease-fire agreement, followed by a peace process that is inclusive of ethnic Rohingya, Shan, Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, and Kayin, and other ethnic groups and leads to the development of a political system that effectively addresses natural resource governance, revenue-sharing, land rights, and constitutional change enabling inclusive peace.”
4. Include Engagement with Malaysia and India:
Both Malaysia and India should be included in the bill because they both have a large stake in the return of refugees. According to UNHCR in Malaysia, there are 154,860 refugees from Burma, of which 102,990 are Rohingyas (https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance-in-malaysia.html, CAM’s Report, September 2020: https://chinmd.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Chin-Refugees-Final-Oct-8-2020.pdf) According to the Mizoram State government, since February 1, an estimated 20,000 Chins have fled to Mizoram seeking refuge. New Delhi has about 3,000 refugees. Besides hosting a large number of refugees Malaysia is an influential political and economic nation in the region. India likewise is very influential, as a Quad member, and the world’s largest democracy. Both countries can and should play a big role to put pressure on the military regime in Burma to change its behavior.
In the following sections, not limited to sections mentioned below, countries such as India and Malaysia should be included.
Title I. SEC. 101. (3). (I)
Title III. SEC. 301. (a)
Title III. SEC. 302. (a) and (a) (1).
Title III. SEC. 302. (a) (4) (B).
5. Provide Karenni State, Sagaing Division, and Magwe Division with Humanitarian Assistance:
The Bill should provide Karenni State (also known as Kayah State), Sagaing Division, and Magwe Division with access to humanitarian assistance from UN Agencies and the international community. After the February coup, Karennis have been severely targeted by the military, creating over 82,000 new internally displaced persons. Also, at least eight Catholic churches in Karenni State have been destroyed by the military.
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