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Press Release: Is Myanmar President Avoiding Being Served in US Court?

Friday, February 12, 2016 

Contact: Jennifer Sawicz
Media Relations Director

Is Myanmar President Avoiding Being Served in US Court?
Thein Sein Eludes Legal Action: Sends VP Linked to Navy Crimes

On February 11, 2015 it was officially announced that Myanmar President Thein Sein will not be attending the prestigious Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in the Sunnylands Resort in Rancho Mirage, California from February 15 to 16. The Office of the President gave no official reason for the surprising withdrawal, but numerous human rights activists voiced suspicion that he may have gotten wind of the intention of Burma Task Force to serve him with the lawsuit filed against him in US federal court, for crimes against humanity.

In October 2015, Al Jazeera reported on this lawsuit, addressing "hate crimes and discrimination amounting to genocide” perpetrated against the Rohingya, an ethno-religious group in Myanmar labeled by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Because of their religion (Islam) & skin color (darker than the majority Bamar), Rohingya have faced discrimination as well as many other human rights abuses. Hate groups in the Rakhine state of Myanmar have destroyed and seized Muslim towns and neighborhoods, forced the Rohingya into prison camps, destroyed their businesses, systematically denied them rights to form families, travel, receive health care, & vote. The government even refuses to mention them by name.

The Myanmar government has not only promoted the anti-Muslim movement on national level and passed laws to render this community stateless, but police and other authorities have also joined in violence & executed genocidal policies on the local level.

Recent reports from the Lowenstein Center at Yale Law School and Queen Mary University of London, as well as seven Nobel laureates support the genocide classification. Burma Task Force, Muslim rights groups, & Rohingya victims filed this lawsuit to address these crimes against humanity under the legal principle of Universal Jurisdiction. 

“Thein Sein has presided over a state-led genocide against the Rohingya, the rise of extreme Buddhist nationalism, and the passage of discriminatory laws targeting Burma's Muslims and other minorities,” affirms Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of Burma Task Force, on the organization’s web site which also includes links to the legal action.

As Al Jazeera has reported, Burma Task Force’s lawsuit “seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a U.S. law often invoked in lawsuits alleging human rights abuses.” In order to appear in court, however, President Thein Sein and the other named defendants from Myanmar’s government will need to be served with the suit.

“Since the President’s Office gave no official reason for President Sein not attending the ASEAN summit in CA it's rational to suppose that he learned of the impending service of this lawsuit through Myanmar intelligence & is hoping to avoid being served,” added noted Chairman Mujahid. “Since there are no indications from the newly elected leading party that they plan to restore rights to the Rohingya, we expect the international community to continue to put pressure on the government of Myanmar during this period of political transition.”

According to yesterday’s Reuters report, Vice-President Nyan Htun will represent Myanmar at the ASEAN summit on 15-6 February. Burma Task Force calls on him to support full inclusion for Rohingya and all ethnic groups residing in Burma.

“Nyan Tun is ex-Admiral and under his watch, the Burma Navy was directly involved in Rohingya persecution, according to the trafficked Rohingya refugees who left Burma by boat. whom My wife and I interviewed,” stated Professor Maung Zarni, Burmese co-author of 'The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar's Rohingya'. “Navy ships have towed traffickers’ boats out of Burma's territorial waters while confiscating the boat fuel and leaving the boats in high seas to drift away.”

Burma Task Force calls on the US government to promote its highest values and link commerce and development with human rights protection across the globe. We also call on ASEAN members to do the same. 

Burma Task Force USA was established by the US-based non-profit Justice for All in August 2013 to stop the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority group & the persecution of other ethnic groups; and to ensure that international investors prioritize human rights in economic development.

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