Tuesday, July 25, 2017

US urges action on Rohingya discrimination

A US congressional panel has urged Myanmar to end discrimination against its Rohingya minority, saying human rights were vital as the once pariah nation embraces democratic reforms.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a resolution that calls on the country formerly known as Burma to "end all forms of persecution and discrimination" against the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim people who are not even recognized as citizens.

Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the committee, voiced alarm at violence against Rohingya as well as Myanmar's restrictions on medical aid group Doctors Without Borders.

"Sadly, this is what happens when a government refuses to recognize its own people," Royce said at a hearing.

"The government of Burma cannot claim progress toward meeting its reform goals if it does not improve the treatment of Rohingya Muslims and other minority groups," he said.

The resolution, which does not threaten specific US counter-measures, heads to the full House of Representatives where its approval is virtually certain as it enjoys support from both parties.

Two major waves of unrest in Rakhine state have left around 140,000 people displaced and sparked anti-Muslim violence elsewhere in Myanmar that has left about 250 people dead.

The outbreak of communal tensions comes as the longtime authoritarian state transitions toward democracy and repairs once fraught relations with the United States, which has ended most economic sanctions.

Speaking elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Myanmar's ambassador to Washington, Kyaw Myo Htut, said his country hoped to keep improving relations with the United States and appreciated international "support, encouragement and understanding" for the reforms.

"Myanmar is cognizant that more remains to be done. Not all issues may be resolved in a day," he said.

The ambassador was speaking at the launch of a report by the National Bureau of Asian Research that mostly called for efforts to sustain Myanmar's reforms but also warned of risks from anti-Muslim violence.

Kyaw Myo Htut welcomed the report but said that some points "do not reflect reality."