The following statement was issued Wednesday, August 30, 2017, by Tom Andrews, President and CEO UUSC. Andrews and UUSC are urging the Burma (Myanmar) government and its State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to immediately accept and act upon key recommendations of a report issued last week by the independent Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
“The violence raging in Burma’s western Rakhine state follows longstanding repression and discrimination against the Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority. This latest tragedy befalling innocent Rohingya citizens will become worse unless action is taken to address its source. The government of Burma can begin by fulfilling its promise to act on the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
“The plight of Rohingya families is now compounded, as they are daily and increasingly in the crosshairs of fighting between Rohingya militants and Burmese military who systematically raid the region’s villages.
“We condemn the recent acts of violence in Rakhine between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Burmese military.
“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.
“We applaud the commission’s report, which addresses many of the region’s most immediate and pressing issues. And we particularly support the report’s recommendation to accelerate the citizen verification process and the benefits, rights and freedoms that are associated with citizenship.
“Even so, 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. They are one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, and the world’s largest stateless community, despite the fact that they have lived in Burma for many decades.
“We now urge Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to immediately allow the U.N. fact finding mission access to Burma to establish the facts of what is occurring and what has prompted the violence. The U.N. mission must include an investigation of alleged human rights abuses that are reported to involve sweeping arrests, deaths in custody, the blockade of food and aid to civilians, as well as reports of a large increase in military troops in the region and growing tension between the Rohingya and Rakhine communities.
“We further call on the government and military to 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.
“We also implore the governments of Burma and Bangladesh to allow greater access to humanitarian workers helping the affected population.
“Thousands of Rohingya are now fleeing to the Bangladesh border asking for asylum, but many are being sent back at fear for their lives. Villages are now being burned. Even Burmese Buddhists in the region are also fleeing the area to safety in Sittwe, a Buddhist majority city in southern Rakhine state.
“This egregious violation of human rights on all fronts must stop. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has long supported the wellbeing and human rights of the Rohingya people. We will not stop. And we are now accelerating our call to leaders in the United States, other world bodies and faith leaders globally for increased world influence to end this tragedy.”