Open letter to my elected officials regarding Myanmar

Posted on: September 17, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

Updated 9-25-19

I have added three parts to this post.  First are some relevant links and then I comment on the overall situation.

Relevant links (provided by The International Campaign for the Rohingya), especially for those in the US:

Acute on chronic
The phrase (used by Paul Farmer describing the earthquake that hit Haiti) ‘acute on chronic’ does not even begin to capture the complex array of issues facing the Rohingya. Among them:

There may be reason for optimism as more scrutiny concerning war crimes is put on the leadership within Myanmar.

Current issues in Myanmar (Burma) put on display the complexities inherent in any humanitarian response to a conflict situation. Make no mistake: how the international community responds here and now is a measure of our collective humanity.

One key issue is the struggle between national sovereignty and the UN’s power to intervene. Indeed, whether and when to invoke Responsibility to Protect remains a vital issue. That the UN did not act in August of 2017 as the latest genocidal actions were taking place against the Rohingya represents a systemic failure of the system, a failure that shines a light on the fact humanity is still fractured into an array of ‘me first’ nations, most prominently displayed by the actions of the highest leadership in the United States and the UK. We must transcend populism, nationalism, and facism if we are to survive.

We are all Rohingya. We are all Zapatistas. We are all Palestinians. We are all Sioux. We are all Yanomami. And the list goes on. We are all humans and must learn the treat each other as brothers and sisters and, importantly, as environmental stewards, insuring a healthy world for our grandchildren.

Current news out is that The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed plans to put forward a four point proposal to the UN regarding the Rohingya.

The four-point proposal is solid and I hope is given the most urgent attention by those in power in the UN.

That said, the content of her fourth point (4. International community must ensure that the root causes of Rohingya problem are addressed and atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.) could be the same for countless marginalized groups in conflict zones (both hot and ‘cold’) around the world. Indeed and demonstratively so, the UN must address the ‘root causes’ of racial/ethnic/tribal/religious ‘othering’ that make it possible for whatever groups are in power (in the case the Buddhist majority) to impose their will, even to the point of genocide. History is distressingly full of this pattern where the powerful use racial/ethnic/tribal/religious ‘othering’ to normalize injustices.

As humanity -those who share one world and one fate- we must break this cycle of othering by ruling elites, and in so far as the UN represents our collective humanity, forward movement must start there.

Open letter to my elected officials who are charged with hearing and representing the views of their constituents, myself included.

[Note:  I have sent this message in emails to all listed below. I will also Tweet out the url to this letter to all governmental officials listed below.]


My North Carolina US Senators

Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Richard Burr (R-NC)

My district (6th) representative in the US House of Representatives

Mark Walker (R-NC)

President Donald Trump



Thomas Arcaro
Burlington, NC


Senators Tillis and Burr, Representative Walker, President Trump,

I write to call your attention to the need for the urgent action regarding the ongoing genocidal behavior of the government of Myanmar.  On September 16 the detailed findings of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar were submitted for action to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Here is a key quotation from that report:

“Against a background of domestic impunity, accountability can only be advanced by the international community.” 

The threat of more genocidal actions is real and imminent. Refugees from Myamnar need the help of the international community, and that means strong response from a world leader, our nation, the United States.

The documentation of genocidal actions completed by representatives of the United Nations is thorough, compelling, and unequivocally names the Myanmar government as the main perpetrator. This genocidal action has produced over 1.2 million refugees, mostly ethnic Rohingya living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. It has also produced at least 128,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in internment camps in Rakhine, Myanmar.

I have been communicating with many Rohingya now living in refugee camps located in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They wish to go back to their homes, but not before they have full citizenship and are recognized as having equal rights in Myanmar (Burma). Going home must happen only after there is assurance that those who committed the genocidal acts are brought to justice and they can be confident that no further state supported persecution will occur.  This means having United Nations oversight at all stages of repatriation, for both short and long term.

I urge the following actions:

  • Urge Sally Craft, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and leader of the delegation of the United States to (1) advocate for even more immediate and direct action by the UN to this situation, and (2) pressure the UN Security Council to seriously consider invoking the so-called Responsibility to Protect provision.
  • Targeted economic and diplomatic sanctions by the US government against Myanmar
  • Influence the World Bank to restrict development funding to Myanmar
  • Use diplomatic channels to encourage other nations to respond more responsibly to human rights violations in Myanmar
  • Encourage State Department travel bans to Myanmar
  • Use diplomatic pressure to encourage the government of Bangladesh to work closely with the UN, major humanitarian INGO representatives, and the Rohingya leadership to ensure optimal refugee camp conditions
  • Create and enforce a stronger embargo on military aid to Myanmar, including training
  • Block any trade with military linked companies
  • Facilitate the detailed identification, prosecution, and punishment of those guilty of war crimes by urging and supporting action by the International Criminal Court.
  • Insist on a United Nations Human rights advisor in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon
  • Accept more refugees, especially the extremely persecuted Rohingya, and encourage other nations to do same

The situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh demands our attention. The world looks to the United States for action and leadership, and as a standard-bearer for human rights.  The actions I encourage you to take as representatives of the US government are neither simple nor uncontentious, but they are right and moral actions.

Please know that I will be watching your office relative to the above, and will base my vote in November, 2020 on what actions you do or do not take.

Respectfully yours,


Dr. Thomas Arcaro
Burlington, NC




Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He is currently working on second and third books tentatively titled "Understanding and taming the Hydra" and "Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector".

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