US: Anti-Muslim Attackers in Burma Unpunished

By Matthew Pennington 13 January 2015

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s UN ambassador said Monday the humanitarian situation in Burma’s Arakan 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 US policy toward the country.

Power highlighted how Republicans and Democrats had cooperated to impose sanctions on Burma’s former ruling junta and then to offer a diplomatic opening when political reforms began. But she said Burma “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, US-Burma human rights dialogue this week, and as a UN special rapporteur visits Arakan State in western Burma and assesses the conditions faced by stateless Rohingya displaced in attacks by Buddhist extremists.

Power said the United States still has great hope for Burma’s future. She said as well as providing incentives for democratic reform, the United States 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 US Treasury blacklisted a hardline, ruling party lawmaker Aung Thaung, accusing him of fueling violence and corruption, and undermining key democratic reforms.