BY JAMES WELLEMEYER
Greta Van Susteren testified on Wednesday before Congress to draw attention to human rights abuses against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.
The host of Voice of America’s “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” and former Fox News and MSNBC host told lawmakers before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about her four trips to visit Rohingya refugees fleeing violence, most recently in June.
Van Susteren described the Rohingya people as “forgotten, stateless, and homeless.”
She was asked by committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) if she believes the persecution of the Rohingya constitutes genocide.
“I absolutely do,” she responded. “The Myanmar military elected to push the Rohingya out of the country.”
The U.S. has condemned Myanmar’s government for its violence against the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority. But human rights advocates say the government should go further and label the violence “genocide.”
Stephen Pomper, program director at the International Crisis Group, said he agreed with Van Susteren that the acts committed against the Rohingya meet the definition of genocide.
He noted that the persecution included “indiscriminate killings, burning villages to the ground, [and] burning people alive.”
Royce commended “the administration for speaking out against these atrocities.”
“But I encourage the administration to go further,” he continued. “This is more than just a textbook example of ethnic cleansing… It is clear that these crimes amount to genocide.”
The U.S. State Department currently classifies the persecution of the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing.”
Asked by lawmakers what Congress could do to best help the Rohingya people, Van Susteren and Pomper floated sanctions against Myanmar military leaders.
Van Susteren also said it was important to raise awareness about the issue among Americans and the international community. One of the main barriers on that front, however, is that “the press isn’t getting in,” she said.
Two Reuters journalists are currently serving seven years in prison for reporting on mass graves in Myanmar.
“Few journalists are going to risk their lives,” to cover the genocide, Van Susteren worried.