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Calls on US to support UK push for UNSC meeting, doubling down pressure on Burma government

Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, 011 339-236-0679
Shayna Lewis, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, 011 617-301-4333

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Wednesday August 30, 2017 — As thousands of Rohingya Muslims continue to flee the violence and conflict destroying their homes in Burma’s Rakhine State, international human rights agency the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is urging that the United Nations Security Council immediately convene to address the escalating violence. They called on the U.S. government and other world bodies to press Burma’s leaders to stop attacks on homes and villages of the Rohingya ethnic minority and work to bring an immediate halt to the violence.

In a statement today, UUSC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Andrews also urged that the government of Burma immediately adopt key recommendations of a report issued last week by the Kofi Annan-led Independent Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that address injustices suffered by the Rohingya ethnic minority.

“The violence raging in Burma’s western Rakhine state is about to escalate to catastrophic levels unless immediate action is taken,” said Andrews. “It follows longstanding repression and discrimination against the Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority. This latest tragedy befalling innocent Rohingya citizens will become even worse unless action is taken to address its source.

“The U.N. Security Council must address this crisis immediately by pressuring the government and military of Burma to stop its scorched earth strategy where Rohingya villages and innocent Rohingya families are brutally attacked.

“The government of Burma should be pressured to begin immediately to fulfill its promise to act on the recommendations of the Kofi Annan led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State,” Andrews said.

Andrews is a former Congressman from Maine, and a long-time advocate of democracy and human rights in Burma, who worked closely with the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, served as facilitator and strategic advisor to the European Burma Network, and served as General Secretary of the Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma.

He warned that, “The increasing violence, as well as the rising specter of terrorist infiltration in the region, make it imperative that the key recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led independent Advisory Commission on Burma’s Rakhine State be accepted and acted upon immediately by the government of Burma and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Andrews said Cambridge, Massachusetts based UUSC has long worked with partners in the region to assist and advocate for the oppressed Rohingya and applauds the commission report’s recommendation to accelerate the citizen verification process and benefits, rights and freedoms that are associated with citizenship.

“Even so,” he cautioned, “the report does not fully address the human rights of all Burmese Rakhine Muslim minority residents, who, under a 1982 law, are not even recognized as citizens … despite the fact that they have lived in Burma for many decades.”

In the last week more than 18,000 Burmese Rohingya have now fled to neighboring Bangladesh for asylum. “We also implore the governments of Burma and Bangladesh to allow greater access to humanitarian workers helping the affected population,” said Andrews.

UUSC has asked that the Burmese government and military distinguish between Rakhine civilians and combatants in their response, and to not repeat the scorched-earth response that followed last October’s violence. “It is a response that will further inflame an already critical situation that could lead to even greater and more catastrophic violence.”

Andrews separately commended the U.S. administration and “a chorus of voices, including Congressional Republicans, for doing the right thing a few months ago.” The administration co-sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution establishing an independent investigation of the violence against ethnic minorities in Burma.

“Unfortunately Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have refused to let the investigators in,” he said. “The U.S. and international community must do everything possible to stop the violence and address the systematic injustices and impunity that will continue to fuel desperation among the Rohingya.”

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