Return to Transcripts main page


Las Vegas Shooting Reignites U.S. Gun Debate; Rohingya Abuses May be Crimes Against Humanity. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 4, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the president and the congress say now is not the time to talk about gun safety for America. So when is

the time? The only congresswoman who took a bullet in the head takes up the cause with an impassioned plea.


GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight. Be bold, be courageous. The nation is

counting on you.


AMANPOUR: Renowned congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis joins us live. Plus, eyewitness to the suffering of Myanmar Rohingya people as the

U.N. warns the government there may be guilty of crimes against humanity. Good evening everyone and welcome to the program.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Is the United States government more committed to protecting its people from being shot to death or to

protecting people's gun rights? Right after the Las Vegas massacre, the White House sent talking points to its staff.

One of those points says "Let us gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment." Now, more Americans

have died from gunshots in the past five decades than in every American war combined including the civil war.

Taking center stage on the steps of Capitol Hill today, the moral voice of America's congress John Lewis. The civil rights leader who marched

alongside Martin Luther King, Jr.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), Ga.: Don't tell me this is about anything other than greed, greed, money and fear. I say to each one of us, to all of the

members of the congress, have courage, be unafraid, do your job, bring common sense gun control legislation to a vote.

We need it and we need it now.


AMANPOUR: His Democratic senate colleagues introduced legislation today to try to ban the kinds of accessories that the Las Vegas killer likely used

to fire more shots more quickly.

President Trump visiting Las Vegas today, like his fellow Republicans, has said that now is not the time to talk about enacting basic safety measures.

But if not now, when? After the last big massacre, Congressman Lewis led a sit-in in the Capitol.

He was urging action and he joins me now from Washington. Congressman, welcome back to the program. It's always these really tragic instances

that demand your moral voice. But I need to ask you, you tried it last time, after Orlando, there was a big sit-in that lasted 24 hours and it

went nowhere.

LEWIS: Well, we have to keep trying. We can never ever give up. We've lost too many people, hundreds and thousands of men, women, children. It's

not safe to go to church to attend a mass, a synagogue, to be in school, to go to a club and dance or what and just listen to wonderful music.

A concert, in Las Vegas. The time is always right to do right. That's what Martin Luther King, Jr. said over and over again. It's time for us to

pass the necessary legislation to control the proliferation of gun.

We've lost too many of our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, and brothers, and our little children. The time is always right as I said to do what is


AMANPOUR: Congressman, that sounds so sensible and so right but what do you make, then, of these talking points that are being issued by the White

House and probably, they're issued every time there's something like this.

We've seen a parade of congress -- congressional leaders saying, "Now, is not the time." I read one of those talking points and here's another one.

"Let's be clear," says the White House. "New laws won't stop a madman committed to harming innocent people."

"They will just curtail the freedom of law-abiding (00:05:00) citizens." I mean, how do you argue with that logic?

LEWIS: Well, we don't need more talking points. We don't need more people sitting and dying. Getting bogged down in the paralysis of analysis. We

need to act.

And the congress, the leadership, the majority should bring a vote to the floor of the house and to the senate to deal with gun violence and we would

pass it.

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you. You know that there's a measure about enabling these silencers. Do you think in the aftermath of Las Vegas that

that is going to get passed?

LEWIS: Well, there's some discussion about delaying it right now. It was supposed to have been on the calendar this week but I think that would be

great all across our country and not just on the floor of the house or the floor of the senate.

AMANPOUR: Let me just remind, you know, our viewers and everybody of, again, you know, you talk about the paralysis of analysis but what about

the paralysis of the political leadership in congress? This is what the senate majority leaders said, again, in response to you all calling for



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this. It just happened within

the last day and a half, entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions if any,


AMANPOUR: Congressman, how do you tell people that it's not about politicizing and issue? It's about trying to enact some safety, some equal

protection for people as there are for guns?

LEWIS: Well, we must use common sense. The time is now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, when you're losing hundreds and thousands of

people. We have to act. We have to do something. What is it all about? We came here, as I said earlier today, to be headlights and not taillights.

To be leaders, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to do something. You have to act. That's what we did

during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

AMANPOUR: And Congressman, I mean, clearly you have been there in the front lines. You know what it takes and sometimes, you're going to find

some common ground at some point, one hopes. But you talk about leadership and we don't see it on Capitol Hill.

What we're seeing now isn't coming from funny comedians, you know, the late-night comics. Listen to what Jimmy Kimmel said in the aftermath, and

of course, he's from Las Vegas.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!: We wonder why even though there's probably no way to ever know why a human being would do something like this

to other human beings who are at a concert, having fun and listening to music.

When someone with a beard attacks us, we taps phones, we invoke travel bans, we build walls, we take every possible precaution to make sure it

doesn't happen again. But when an American buys a gun and kills other Americans, then there's nothing we can do about that.


AMANPOUR: So clearly emotional but he's had some success in pushing congress even on, you know, Obamacare and et cetera. Do you think there

would have been a different reaction if it hadn't been a white American male or white American who committed this heinous crime?

LEWIS: I don't know but I know one thing, we have to act. We have to do something. The American people want us to do something to save lives and

we will. We will. It may take a little longer but we will act.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you then because, you know, I said Senator Feinstein and others are proposing to ban accessories that enable that

quick-firing, that enable a gun to be turned into an automatic weapon.

I mean, what will you say to your Republican colleagues to convince them that now is the time to do that? Because clearly, that's what this killer


LEWIS: Well, the time is -- there's so many people are suffering, so many people are hurting, losing their relatives, their mothers, their fathers,

their sisters, their brothers, their children, their friends, their neighbor. We have to act.

We have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate to do something, to set something and the American people must put more pressures on members of

congress to stand up, to be brave, to be courageous, to be bold, and do the right thing.

AMANPOUR: Well, how do you plan to get the American people to do that? Because I'm trying to figure out whether, you know, your words clearly are

shaming words. But are they more afraid of being, you know, (00:10:00) being named and shamed by the NRA, these congress people?

LEWIS: When the -- when done another time and another period, and the movement, the Civil Rights Movement, we engage and sit in, stand in and

marching, and you (INAUDIBLE) a year ago we had a sit-in on the floor of the house, we're not ruling out anything as members of congress.

AMANPOUR: Congressman John Lewis, thank you so much for joining us from Capitol Hill this evening.

LEWIS: Well, thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, a murderous crackdown in Myanmar that sent half a million Rohingya Muslims fleeing. Next our reporter on the

ground as we also ask who will confront the military regime? After a break.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, these are desperate times for Myanmar's Rohingya people. In the past few weeks, more than half a million

have been forced from their homes after the Myanmar military reacted furiously to an attack by the ARSA Rohingya militant.

Exhausted and terrified, people are fleeing over the border into neighboring Bangladesh and many now live there in chaotic, overcrowded

makeshift camps without enough clean drinking water or basic sanitation.

And today the U.N. warned Myanmar's military action, "May amount to crimes against humanity." CNN's Alex Field travel to Cox's Bazaar on the

Bangladesh border to bring us back these heartbreaking stories.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was their baby. A 3- year-old lifeless body bundled up in her grandfather's arms. Pholtala (ph) got sick on the way to Bangladesh.

She says, "While we were hiding in the hills and forest, she drank water from canals, ponds, rivers, and from the pipes there. The family ran from

violence in Myanmar to try to save their lives.

"They were killing us," he says. "Shooting us, beating us, slaughtering us. They caught us one by one then the slaughtering." Rohingya Muslims

say the military in Myanmar has launched a violent campaign against them. Myanmar's military continues to say they're only targeting terrorists.

Dildar Begum was pregnant when she had to run. "They killed my mother," she says. "My father, wherever I saw roads, I went through that path. I

was hiding in the hills for eight days. On the second day, I gave birth to a baby girl."

She was in the jungle. The bugs biting her newborn baby. "After giving birth," she says, "Women need fire, a warm environment, hot water,

medicine, and (INAUDIBLE) we didn't get anything. My baby and I became sick."

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are now living on the other side of the border in Bangladesh where conditions are still desperate. There's

little clean water, disease can spread quickly. It's hardest on the sickest, the oldest, the youngest.

The Rohingya population is young overall. The birthrate is high. UNICEF says 60 percent of those fleeing Myanmar are children. Babies too.


AMANPOUR: That report from CNN's Alexandra Field and the world is focused weathering criticism (00:15:00) on Myanmar's civilian leader, a Nobel

Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop or even speak out forcefully against the violence.

She said this when she collected her Nobel Peace Prize back in 2012.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI, FIRST STATE COUNSELLOR, MYANMAR: So for me, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concern for democracy

and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.


AMANPOUR: So I asked Amnesty International's Tirana Hassan who's just back from the CNN Bangladesh and the editor of the English edition of The

Irrawaddy Kyaw Zwa Moe whether Aung San Suu Kyi held any sway, and if not what would stop the military onslaught?

Tirana Hassan in Geneva. I first would like to start with you just to set the stage. We've seen these reports, we've been watching what's going on

from months now. What do you call the nature of what's happening in Rakhine State?

TIRANA HASSAN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRISIS RESPONSE DIRECTOR: There's absolutely no doubt that what we have witnessed taking place in Rakhine

State is a planned, deliberate, and widespread campaign of ethnic cleansing which is being executed by the Myanmar military.

I mean this is a brutal campaign. It's essentially also a scorched-earth campaign where the Rohingya population has been driven from their -- from

their villages by the hundreds of thousands.

We're in a situation now with 500,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh. I mean, that is more than the population of Liverpool. And it really is

extraordinary and it's difficult to remember a time where we've seen such a massive population fled.

AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you before I go to Rangoon, why do you say with such confidence that it is premeditated, planned, and a military

campaign of scorched-earth and ethnic cleansing?

Because many are saying that they can't tell whether that's the case. They know that all these people have fled, but have they fled because they are

afraid or what?

HASSAN: Well, Amnesty International has been on the ground now since the beginning of this campaign and we've been speaking to dozens of people

every day.

And the stories that they are telling us are very clear. They are talking about instances where the Myanmar Security Forces, whether it'd be police,

whether it'd be the border police, or whether it'd be the military in concept with local vigilantes have gone into their villages.

They have shot just completely indiscriminately, sending people fleeing, firing upon them, killing, and injuring schools as they're fleeing. And

then setting their homes on fire.

We have been speaking to people across the border who have told us that they hid in jungle and watched as their villages burnt. And now satellite

imagery analyst have been able to detect at least 80 villages which has been just burnt to the ground.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me put that now to Kyaw Zwa Moe who is in Yangon. We've been seeing the pictures actually of the camps in Bangladesh where

they have fled to.

Kyaw, you know, this is a pretty heavy accusation that the military has actually, you know, launched this scorched-earth campaign. What do you say

to that?

KYAW ZWA MOE, THE IRRAWADDY MAGAZINE MANAGING EDITOR (via telephone): I would suggest this is a very politically calculated attack by that militant


But the problem is that, of course, you know, the government was surprised as well and they couldn't really handle the situation and then we have

been, you know, seeing that over hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to the Bangladesh area and also that the cities in the Rakhine State.

Of course now, this is a -- this is a very catching, you know, scenario but my thought is that the international community should -- shouldn't miss the

fact that they -- they're internationally organized these attacks to get the attention from the international community, to keep the pressure on the

government, of course, as well as the military as well.

AMANPOUR: There are nearly half a million men, women, and children who fled their homes. Who's responsible for this? You know that Aung San Suu

Kyi is taking a lot of criticism all over the world for not speaking out against it, they're not stopping it. Who could stop it? And should the

military in Myanmar do more?

MOE (via telephone): I think Aung San Suu Kyi and the government is the only institution which can really improve that speculation for the Rohingya

people out there.

Aung San Suu Kyi has a full collaboration from the military and other ministries as well as (00:20:00) from the international community.

Although, by -- the international community and the other side keep attacking, criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi. She will face the more difficulty

in dealing with this speculation?

AMANPOUR: You heard what the gentleman said that Aung San Suu Kyi is the best hope for democracy, the best hope for the Rohingya. What is your

reaction to that?

HASSAN: Aung San Suu Kyi has a role to play here. She could be speaking out against the violence. Yes, she may not control the military but she

also has very important role in setting the tone not following it.

And she has a responsibility as the defector head of state to actually deescalate this and she can start doing that immediately. But there is the

point that she is not the head of the military.

There is a commander in chief and we don't use his often inland enough. His name is Min Aung Hlaing. And this is the person who controls the

Myanmar security forces.

And these are security forces which we believe are behind this wide- spreading systematic campaign.

AMANPOUR: In the meantime, while you're hoping, I guess, beyond hope, that somehow this will be -- will stop, can you drill down on some of the

accusations and some of the claims, the tragic claims that the victims are making are for instance, there's a huge amount of reporting of sexual


Obviously children are in dire, dire need, people have talked about, you know, having -- watching their relatives have their throat slit. Give me

an idea of what they're enduring.

HASSAN: I mean, other -- over a decade now we're documenting human rights abuses and conflict and this really has to rank about as one of the most

shocking that I had documented.

And the stories that we've heard are just so consistent but really unfathomable in their brutality until you see the scars, until you see --

you hear the stories, you know, a family after family getting off these boats and they're consistent.

We have heard in one of the most chilling stories I heard is from a village called Tula Toli where the villagers were actually told a day in advance to


And they thought that they were being told to leave so that they would be safe. Instead they went to seek -- try to find safety by a riverbank and

the military, the security forces came in from two separate stage and just started opening fire on them.

Some people -- particularly a couple of witnesses we spoke to were able to swim to safety across the river. And then they just had to sit and endure

watching their families being killed.

What would you say to the ARSA, the militant Rohingya groups who in this instance definitely lit this bonfire?

HASSAN: There have been abuses on both sides, that is without a doubt. And without the Myanmar authorities being able to allow independent

investigator such as Amnesty International or even the U.N. investigators who have been mandated by the U.N. Human Rights council should be able to

go and conduct a proper investigation.

That is the only way that we will be able to go and then document the abuses by the group, the Rohingya militant group known as ARSA as well as

the abuses being carried out by the security forces.

And that is the only way that we will ensure that there is accountability in the future, because it is true, accountability is not just the one way

street. Both parties to this or all parties to this must be accountable for any crimes that they have committed and that is what Amnesty

International is calling for.

AMANPOUR: Tirana Hassan, thank you so much for joining us on this.

HASSAN: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, history repeating itself on the anniversary of The Space Race. Imagine very different spot may cause then

trouble for the West. That's next.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine the world reliving an old cosmic contest. As news of the Las Vegas shooting spread fake news reared its

ugly head again, far-right the extremer spread the lie that it was committed by an anti-Trump liberal and the Russian State news agency

Sputnik said the attack was committed by ISIS.

As the story started trending, Sputnik claimed their fake news flash was just a typo. As congress continues investigating the infowars this week,

imagine that 60 years ago the original Sputnik that small Soviet satellite started The Space Race catching the Americans unaware and leaving them red


But also full throttled. For President Kennedy then vowed to put a man on the moon and ended up beating Russia at its own game. Today, though, the

international space station is one of the rare sides of Russian-American cooperation.

So, who knows, maybe in another 60 years they'll join in harmony online, in the course of truth. Imagine that. That is it for our program tonight.

Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching

and goodbye from London.