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US warns of hate speech as Burma prepares for elections

A Buddhist monk shows a message written in his palm to protest against the ethnic minority Rohingyas in Burma. Pic: AP.

October 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia is warning that the politicization of religion and the spread of hate speech could lead to violence in Burma (also known as Myanmar) as it prepares for landmark Nov. 8 elections.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel made the comments in prepared testimony Wednesday to a House panel examining Burma’s transition to democracy and the plight of its minority Muslims.

He said the election is an important milestone in the shift away from dictatorship, but the U.S. “will not turn a blind eye to shortcomings at any point in the election process.”

Republican Rep. Ed Royce said a better yardstick of Burma’s progress is its “abhorrent” treatment of Rohingya Muslims. He called for the U.S. Treasury to blacklist human rights violators in the country.

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