Dr. Tanmi Kabir immigrated from Bangladesh to Arizona 19 years ago and is following closely the humanitarian crisis unfolding in her home country. Now a U.S. citizen, the Chandler mother was disappointed to learn her congressman was one of only three to vote against a resolution decrying the atrocities in the region of southeast Asia.
“I was surprised and sad,” Kabir said. “I’m sure he must have a good reason for doing this but I would like to know why.”
Doctors Without Borders estimates since August 2017, at least 9,000 men and women and another 700 children under the age of 5 have been killed in what the United Nations calls “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” More than a half million Rohingya refugees have been driven from their homes in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh, according to U.N. reports.
“It’s seeing the children and the women suffering. That is the worst part,” Kabir said. She volunteers with other east Valley residents for Helping Hand for Relief and Development to send supplies to the region.
As countries often look to the U.S. to publicly denounce human rights abuses, House Concurrent Resolution 90 was passed in November by an overwhelming vote of 423 to 3. It condemns ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in the region. The resolution also demands that Burma’s government cooperate with humanitarian workers and the U.N. It calls on President Trump to impose sanctions on the security forces responsible for human rights abuses.
“At least 200 villages have been burned to the ground. There are reports of rapes and all types of violence committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese security forces,” said California Congressman Ed Royce (R), Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. “This is a moral issue and a national security issue. No one is secure when extremism and instability is growing in this part of the world.”
For several weeks, 12 News has requested an interview or statement from Congressman Biggs about why he voted "no" in the face of such overwhelming support by colleagues of both parties. A spokesperson for Biggs has not responded to more than a dozen emails and several phone calls from 12 News in recent weeks seeking comment.
Kabir says she realizes she can’t force her congressman to vote one way or another, but she feels she deserves at the very least an explanation.
“How do you defend yourself while the rest of the world is standing against it?” Kabir asked, referring to Biggs.
The other two “no” votes came from Walter Jones (R) of North Carolina and Thomas Massie (R) of Kentucky. Both explained their vote to 12 News in written statements.
“Congressman Jones believes America has its own problems, and it is his job to be focusing on those first, instead of other countries. He has voted this way on similar resolutions in the past, dealing with the Congo, Ukraine, South Sudan, and Russia,” said Allison Tucker, communications director for Jones.
Congressman Massie said he wants out of the United Nations entirely and issued the following statement:
“While I fully condemn ethnic cleansing and hope for an end to the attacks on the Rohingya in Burma, I could not support the resolution. I support getting the United States out of the United Nations, yet H. Con. Res. 90 urges support for the United Nations fact-finding missions and refers favorably to the United Nations Security Council. This type of bill would be far more effective if it cited the United States Constitution, rather than the United Nations.”