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UUSC warns that death toll will skyrocket without immediate international action

Burmese military leaders must be held accountable for crimes against humanity, says agency

Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, 011 339-236-0679
Shayna Lewis, UUSC, 011 617-301-4333

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Monday, September 4, 2017 — International human rights organization the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) says it is imperative that the U.S. government must exert pressure immediately on the commander in chief of Burma’s Armed Forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to stop the escalating scorched earth attacks on thousands of persecuted ethnic Rohingya and their villages in Rakhine State.

Claiming a spiral into “genocide” against the world’s most persecuted minority, UUSC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Andrews said Sunday, “Burma’s government and military leaders must be held fully accountable for crimes against humanity.”

According to reports, Rohingya homes and villages are being torched, with women and children among those being killed by Burmese military forces. To date, more than 70,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into neighboring Bangladesh.

“Evidence of systematic military attacks on Rohingya villages and the massacre of Rohingya adults and children are as predictable as they are horrific,” said Andrews. CNN International reports traumatized refugees in Bangladesh camps claim that Rohingya in Rakhine villages are “being beaten, shot at and hacked to death.”

“I spoke with dozens of Rohingya survivors of Myanmar military assaults early this year on the Burma-Bangladesh border,” Andrews said. “The horror we are witnessing today follows precisely the same pattern.”

UUSC’s Andrews is a former U.S. Congressman from Maine and longtime advocate of democracy and human rights in Burma. He has travelled extensively in Burma and Southeast Asia. UUSC partners with Rohingya community leaders and organizations and other human rights organizations from the region. Andrews has 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.

Andrews said, “Once again, untold numbers of innocent Rohingya are being slaughtered by the military and tens of thousands of desperate Rohingya are pouring into Bangladesh. And once again the international community’s response has been, at best, woefully inadequate.

“We are witnessing the failure to heed the warnings issued two years ago by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum of the risk of genocide against the Rohingya.

“It is imperative that the U.S. respond immediately,” said Andrews. “There is not a second to lose or the death toll will spiral. The stakes could not be higher for many tens of thousands.”

Last week UUSC urged the U.S. government and other world bodies to press Burma’s leaders to stop the Rohingya attacks, and urged the United Nations to intervene.

UUSC also urged the government of Burma to immediately adopt key recommendations of a report issued by the Kofi Annan-led Independent Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that addresses injustices suffered by the Rohingya ethnic minority.

In a closed UNSC meeting last Wednesday, the United Kingdom also called for UN intervention, but no agreement was reached.

Promises ‘more like whitewash’
“We were optimistic with the changes within Burma’s government in the last few years, and with Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s appointment as State Counselor of Myanmar,” he said.

“But it now seems that Burma’s stated human rights promises were more like whitewash than any real intention to cease the discrimination and harm the Rohingya are subjected to,” he said. We pray that is not the case.”