|An ethnic Rakhine man with homemade weapons walks near houses that were set aflame during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe, Burma, on June 10. (Reuters)|
December 31, 2013
“The United States, I think, has played a really important role in this period in standing up against atrocities and for democracy and human rights” in Burma.
–Samantha Power, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Nov. 20, 2013
“Today, more than 1,000 political prisoners have been released, and we’re helping Burma build a credible electoral infrastructure ahead of its 2015 national elections. We’re supporting a process of constitutional reform and national reconciliation. As Burma moves toward greater openness and change, we are easing sanctions, while encouraging responsible investment and robust support for the people and civil society activists who suffered so long under the iron fist of dictatorship.”
–National Security Adviser Susan Rice, speech at Georgetown University, Nov. 20, 2013
Power, when she was a White House official, in 2012 laid down some key markers—including the “critical urgency” of “bringing those responsible [for anti-Muslim violence] to justice”– in a blog post that appeared during Obama’s visit to Burma:
The challenge of ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence — including in Shan State, Kachin State, and Rakhine State – remains an area of deep and on-going concern. If left unaddressed, it will undermine progress toward national reconciliation, stability, and lasting peace. Serious human rights abuses against civilians in several regions continue, including against women and children. Humanitarian access to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons remains a serious challenge and on-going crisis. The government and the ethnic nationalities need to work together urgently to find a path to lasting peace that addresses minority rights, deals with differences through dialogue not violence, heals the wounds of the past, and carries reforms forward. The situation in Rakhine State and the recent violence against the Rohingya and other Muslims last week only underscores the critical urgency of ensuring the safety and security of all individuals in the area, investigating all reports of violence and bringing those responsible to justice, according citizenship and full rights to the Rohingya, and bringing about economic opportunity for all local populations.
The official said that the administration is “really urging the government to create a path to citizenship” for the Rohingyas. “The government says they have a plan for that,” the official asserted. “We don’t think it is just lip service—we have seen some signs of preparation in government– but they remain worried about the local reaction.”
Notably, Thein Sein defended controversial Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu after Time magazine labeled him “the face of Buddhist terror.”
By contrast, reports indicate that the Atrocities Prevention Board played an active role in seeking to halt fighting in the Central African Republic.