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Myanmar: US sanctions extended, Rohingya remain in dire situation

May 20, 2014

United States President Barack Obama has extended some economic sanctions against Myanmar for another year, telling Congress the step is needed despite some progress on reforms made by the country.

Mr Obama, who visited Myanmar in 2012, said the Myanmar government had made advances in critical areas such as the release of more than 1100 political prisoners, progress toward a nationwide ceasefire, the legalisation of unions and taking steps to improve the country's labour standards.

However, he said, "Despite great strides that Burma has made in its reform effort, the situation in the country continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

"The political opening remains nascent, and concerns persist regarding ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Rakhine State, and the continued role of the military in the country's political and economic activities," Mr Obama said.

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council, Patrick Ventrell, said significant challenges remain in Myanmar including a dire humanitarian situation in Rakhine state and incidents of violence toward Muslims and other minorities. 

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority who live in Rakhine State, have suffered oppression in the Buddhist-majority country for generations. 

In April, Fairfax Media reported the group was at the centre of tensions around the country's first census in 30 years. Buddhists campaigning against inclusion of the term "Rohingya" in the census attacked the offices of international aid and UN agencies in western Rakhine, forcing more than 70 workers to flee the state. 

The agencies had been delivering food, water and other essential supplies to 200,000 Rohingyas living in camps who had been forced from their homes by sectarian violence.

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