US: Anti-Muslim attackers in Myanmar unpunished
|Wirathu and Aung Thaung|
By Matthew Pennington
January 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's U.N. ambassador said Monday the humanitarian situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state continues to deteriorate and virtually no one has been held to account for attacks on minority Muslims.
Samantha Power said more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims are confined in "squalid camps." She also criticized proposed legislation that would force Rohingya to renounce their ethnicity in order to be registered as citizens.
Power was speaking on foreign policy Monday at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, hosted by Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate's new majority leader. McConnell, from Kentucky, has long been an influential voice in Congress on U.S. policy toward the country also known as Burma.
Power highlighted how Republicans and Democrats had cooperated to impose sanctions on Myanmar's former ruling junta and then to offer a diplomatic opening when political reforms began. But she said Myanmar "is still a long way from being a rights-respecting democracy."
She said journalists in the country are "under serious assault," citing the cases of five who were sentenced to 10 years in prison — later reduced to seven years — for reporting on an alleged chemical weapons program.
Her remarks come ahead of a high-level, U.S.-Myanmar human rights dialogue this week, and as a U.N. special rapporteur visits Rakhine state in western Myanmar and assesses the conditions faced by stateless Rohingya displaced in attacks by Buddhist extremists.
Power said the U.S. still has great hope for Myanmar's future. She said as well as providing incentives for democratic reform, the U.S. can shine a bright light on the government's shortcomings and impose targeted sanctions on individuals who "stand in the way of change."
In October, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted a hard-line, ruling party lawmaker Aung Thaung, accusing him of fueling violence and corruption, and undermining key democratic reforms.