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Engel to Burma: End persecution of Rohingya people

May 9, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — Representative Eliot L. Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks in support of H.Res. 418, Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people and respect internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups within Burma:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my good friend and Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Mr. McGovern, the gentleman from Massachusetts, for authoring this important resolution.

“H.Res. 418 calls on the Government of Burma to end its persecution of the Rohingya people and to respect the human rights of all ethnic and religious minority groups.

“The plight of the Rohingya gets very little public attention, and I’m pleased that this House is addressing the abuses they and other minorities have suffered.

“The State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices acknowledged ‘credible reports of extrajudicial killings, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detentions and torture and mistreatment in detention, deaths in custody, and systematic denial of due process and fair trial rights, overwhelmingly perpetrated against the Rohingya.’

“Last month the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma stated that the recent developments in Burma reflect a ‘long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya Muslim community which could amount to crimes against humanity.’

“The UN has also described the Rohingya community as ‘virtually friendless’ because they are denied citizenship, and face severe restrictions on marriage, employment, health care, education, and daily movement.

“In February, the Burmese government expelled Doctors Without Borders, and since then, deaths due to preventable complications during pregnancy have occurred on an almost daily basis in Rohingya camps, where pregnant women make up a quarter of the group’s emergency referrals.

“Mr. Speaker, as the Government of Burma transitions from decades-long military rule to a civilian government, it is important to hold it accountable for persistent human rights abuses. The killings, arbitrary detentions, and destruction of homes have caused 140,000 people to be internally displaced and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee to neighboring countries including Thailand, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

“If Burma truly seeks to rejoin the international community, the manner in which it treats its own people will be a key marker of the government’s sincerity. Burma must abide by human rights principles of equality and human dignity, and this resolution calls upon the Burmese government to do just that.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.Res. 418.,..”

Preceding provided by Rep. Elliot Engel

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