WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday welcomed Burma’s announcement that it had ended press censorship, but said that it would like the government in Naypyidaw to go a step further and abolish its censorship board.
“We welcome the announcement of the Burmese government that journalists are no longer going to need to pre-submit their articles to the Ministry of Information censor board,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland in response to a question at her daily news conference.
She noted, however, that the censorship board itself has not been eradicated—“a step that we would like to see the Burmese government take, because they continue to monitor the press.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the establishment of a 27-member commission to investigate recent violence in Arakan State, announced by President Thein Sein over the weekend.
“This commission is comprised of a representative cross-section of national figures in the country. It could make important contributions to restoring peace and harmony in the state and in creating a conducive environment for a more inclusive way forward to tackle the underlying causes of the violence, including the condition of the Muslim communities in [Arakan],” said a statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson.
Noting that the commission will “be integral to any reconciliation process,” the spokesperson said the UN is ready to provide assistance in a “constructive spirit” to Burma’s reform and reconciliation efforts, and to help that country overcome its imminent challenges.
In a related development, the Burma Task Force USA, formed last week by prominent American Muslim groups, continued with its outreach program with US lawmakers regarding the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
A delegation representing the Burma Task Force USA met with Congressman Pete Stark to brief him on the current situation of the Rohingya. The congressman promised to work to alleviate the horrific conditions to which the Rohingya are subjected, the Task Force said in a statement.
“Burma Task Force demands that the citizenship rights of Rohingyas be restored,” said Shahana Masoom Ali, a founding member of the Burma Task Force USA. She demanded that UN relief agencies make resettling the refugees their highest priority and to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice.