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EU parliament urges Myanmar to protect Rohingya minority

In this photograph taken on July 2, 2016, Muslim Rohingya children are seen at one of the displacement camp in Sittwe located in western Myanmar's Rakhine State ©Win Moe/AFP

July 7, 2016

The European Parliament on Thursday urged Myanmar to end what it termed "brutal repression" and "systematic persecution" against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi insisted in May her new government was determined to address deep hatreds in western Rakhine State, where tens of thousands of Rohingya are confined to squalid displacement camps after waves of deadly unrest with local Buddhists in 2012.

But she and her administration have been widely criticised for not speaking up sufficiently for the group in a country where nationalists even refuse to use the term "Rohingya", which Suu Kyi herself has maintained risks inflaming tensions.

Nationalists in a country where radical Buddhism is on the rise label the group "Bengalis," casting Myanmar's more than one million Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The European Parliament showed its deep concern by passing a resolution calling for the issue to be urgently addressed.

"Parliament reiterates its deep concern about the plight of Rohingya in South-East Asia. This ethno-religious Muslim minority of about one million people is one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, officially stateless since the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law and unwanted by the Myanmar authorities and by neighbouring countries," the assembly said in a resolution that decried the Rohingya's "extremely vulnerable situation."

European lawmakers said Myanmar must "as a matter of urgency ensure free and unimpeded access to Rakhine State, where some 120,000 Rohingya remain in more than 80 internal displacement camps, for humanitarian actors, the United Nations, international human rights organisations, journalists and other international observers."

They also called on the south Asian country to "condemn unequivocally all incitement to racial or religious hatred and implement specific measures and policies to prevent direct and indirect discrimination against the Rohingya in the future."

A recent UN report expressed similar concern, citing denial of citizenship, forced labour and sexual assault of Rohingya.

Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party took power in April, ending nearly half a century of military domination.

She also is a winner of the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, which the EU awarded her in 1990 and picked up only three years ago following 15 years of house arrest.

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