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US calls on Myanmar to stop violence on Muslims

April 17, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power called on Myanmar’s government Thursday to take urgent steps to stop the violence in the western region where thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes, warning that continuing unrest could imperil the country’s path to democracy and prosperity.

Power’s written comments followed a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council Thursday by Vijay Nambiar, the secretary-general’s special adviser on Myanmar, on developments over the past year.

Myanmar emerged from a half-century of military rule in 2011, but its transition to democracy has been marred by sectarian violence in western Rakhine state. Some 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into dirty, overcrowded camps, segregated from the majority Buddhist population, and tens of thousands have fled by boat since mid-2012.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, regards ethnic Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Power said the U.S. continues to support Burma’s reforms “but are greatly concerned that without effective government intervention violence in Rakhine could worsen, lives will be lost, and the critically needed humanitarian presence will not be sustainable.”

Britain’s deputy ambassador Peter Wilson said the international community must pay attention to what’s happening with the Rohingya and negotiations on Myanmar’s constitution.

Under the current constitution, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is unable to run for the presidency in 2015 because she was married to a foreigner. Constitutional reforms would also be required to dilute the political power of the military and meet ethnic minority demands for autonomy. Whether this will happen before the election remains to be seen.

Both Wilson and Power said the council recognize the huge strides that Myanmar has made over the last three years.

Power said “the people of Burma have the chance to choose a future of democracy and human rights for all, and to reject manipulation, fear, and division.”

“The government must take urgent steps to avoid more violence and to prevent setbacks on the journey to democracy and prosperity,” she said.

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