McCain seeks to protect Cambodians' Human Rights
The United States government has been invested in Cambodian development since the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, when an internationally supported plan to transition Cambodia towards democracy was set into motion. The United States has since provided hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Cambodia, aiding health, development and non-governmental organizations. Despite these efforts, Cambodia remains an undemocratic society, dominated by one party whose failure to hold free and fair elections is currently threatening the health and well-being of the people of Cambodia. Senator John McCain recently introduced a resolution to Congress which would reaffirm the commitment of the United States to promote democracy and the rule of law in Cambodia, asserting his dedication to protecting Cambodians’ human rights.

Cambodia’s progress towards democracy has resulted in steady economic growth as well as significant improvements in public health. However, there are still almost three million Cambodians living in poverty. Maternal and child mortality rates are high, access to safe water and sanitation is limited and there is a growing epidemic of noncommunicable and communicable diseases. Healthcare is not readily available to the poor, who cannot afford the burden of high out of pocket costs, which make up the majority of Cambodia’s national health expenditures. Without proper leadership in public health programs and adequate access to healthcare, Cambodia’s health crisis will continue.

Unfortunately, Cambodian progress has been derailed during the past few years and Cambodians’ human rights are becoming increasingly threatened. The Cambodian government has begun seizing even tighter control, pushing out public programs that would help protect citizens’ well being, restricting the media, and assassinating or arresting individuals who seek to undermine their oppressive authority. Among those arrested in just the past two years include a women’s rights activist, senior members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, the president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party and a political commentator. In just the past few months, the Cambodian government has forced out members of the Peace Corps, ordered the closure of the National Democratic Institute and held a threatening election in violation of campaign rules after demanding that election monitoring organizations cease their activities.

The resolution McCain seeks to pass would condemn the political violence and impropriety currently threatening Cambodians’ human rights. If passed, the United States government would place implicated Cambodian officials on a Specially Designated Nationals list and call on the Cambodian government to hold free elections that would allow citizens to elect leaders that would prioritize their health and well-being.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

Ethnic Cleansing in BurmaOn September 12, 2017, Arizona Senator John McCain spoke out against the treatment of the Rohingya population of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Rohingya people are mostly Muslim-practicing individuals, and according to the United Nations, they are under attack. Specifically, the U.N. stated that the situation, which is characterized by a series of “cruel military operations,” is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Thus, the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar must not be ignored.

In his address, Senator McCain withdrew his support of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA), which sought to expand a military relationship between the United States and Myanmar. Specifically, Senator McCain criticized leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her lack of interference throughout the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. He stated, “I can no longer support expanding military-to-military cooperation given the worsening humanitarian crisis […] against the Rohingya people.”

According to Joshua Kurlantzick, the Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia on the Council on Foreign Relations, Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work with democracy and human rights, “has never demonstrated much sympathy” to the Rohingya people.

Furthermore, Suu Kyi has remained mostly silent throughout the humanitarian crisis; she has claimed that the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar was burdened by an “iceberg of misinformation,” which has further enabled the country’s continuous Buddhist nationalist movement.

The Rohingya people, which are a minority group within Myanmar’s largely Buddhist population, are not recognized as an official ethnic group by the country’s government. The attacks against the Rohingya people escalated on August 25, 2017, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) targeted multiple police and military officials.

Approximately 370,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar in order to find safety and solace in Bangladesh. Additionally, tens of thousands of Rohingya remain displaced throughout Myanmar. However, the Myanmar government has suspended all foreign aid to the Rakhine State, which has left all of the Rohingya people without necessities such as food or health services.

Human Rights Watch has called upon the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to place pressure on the Myanmar government in order to allow access to foreign aid for the Rohingya people.

Suu Kyi’s silence has been demonstrated to have a significantly negative impact on the attacks against the Rohingya people, but she can help stabilize the situation by allowing foreign aid to reach the displaced Rohingya people.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is an organization that has provided approximately 580,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh with food, which is incredibly important for pregnant women and young children. The nutritious food provided by WFP has slightly lessened the risk of disease outbreaks among the Rohingya refugees, by helping to strengthen the immune system and health outcomes. They are seeking further financial resources to continue their work in tackling the crisis.

The Rohingya still remained displaced throughout Bangladesh with no shelter; however, WFP’s food delivery is a great first step to helping the refugees obtain better lives.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr