November 6, 2014 | USCIRF
WASHINGTON, DC – On the eve of President Obama’s November 12-14 trip to Burma, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a new report, “Burma: Religious Freedom and Related Human Rights Violations are Hindering Broader Reforms.” The report and its recommendations reflect a USCIRF Commissioner-level visit to Burma in August 2014 by Commissioners M. Zuhdi Jasser and Eric P. Schwartz and two USCIRF staff.
USCIRF focused on four key issues in its mission: discrimination and horrible abuses against Rohingya Muslims; broader patterns of intolerance against Muslims driven by bigotry and chauvinism among religious and political figures that also impact all other minority religious communities in Burma; laws, policies and proposed legislation that entrench multiple forms of discrimination; and deprivation of citizenship to Rohingya Muslims and prejudicial practices in the issuance of identification documents to all Muslims.
In the report, USCIRF urges the U.S. government to press Burma’s political leaders to permit humanitarian access to Rohingya Muslims who are displaced in Rakhine State and have been denied freedom of movement, and revise the Rakhine State Action Plan to ensure that Rohingya who have been in Burma for generations and know no other home will not be denied citizenship. USCIRF also urges the U.S. government to press for the basic rights of all minority religious communities; encourage tolerance and reconciliation; and support international efforts to promote religious freedom and human rights, including a forthcoming UN resolution that will focus on human rights in Burma. USCIRF also urges U.S. officials to use the term “Rohingya” in recognition of that community’s right to self-identify. Additional recommendations can be found in the report.
USCIRF’s visit to Burma underscores the appropriateness of Burma’s designation as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. For more than a decade, Burma has been designated by the State Department as a CPC due to systematic, egregious and ongoing religious freedom violations. In its report, USCIRF recommends specific ways the U.S. government could take advantage of this CPC designation to encourage reform and respect for religious freedom and related human rights.
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