Newsdeck

Obama urges Myanmar to stop violence against Muslims

By Reuters 21 May 2013

President Barack Obama urged the president of Myanmar on Monday to take steps to halt violence against Muslims in his country and move ahead with economic and political reforms. By Paul Eckert.

Thein Sein became the first head of Myanmar to visit the White House in 47 years, and he and Obama sat down for talks in the Oval Office.

Obama said the Myanmar leader had assured him that he intends to move forward on releasing more political prisoners and institutionalizing political reforms that have already taken place. Thein Sein also vowed to resolve ethnic conflicts by incorporating all communities into the political process, Obama said.

“I also shared with President Sein our deep concern about communal violence that has been directed at Muslim communities inside Myanmar. The displacement of people, the violence directed towards them needs to stop,” Obama said.

Sein, speaking through a translator, said his country faces a “daunting task” in carrying out reforms but said for democracy to flourish in Myanmar the reforms must be carried out in the years ahead.

Myanmar will need the “assistance and understanding” of the international community, including the United States, as it goes through the process, he said.

Rights groups and some U.S. lawmakers fear Obama has moved too quickly since forging a dramatic breakthrough in relations in 2011 after half a century of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

U.S. officials argue that reforms by Myanmar’s quasi-military government – freeing democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of political prisoners, scrapping censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests – are transformative and deserve support from Obama, who confirmed the end of Myanmar’s pariah status with the West with a landmark visit last November.

However, ethnic or sectarian violence, particularly in the western state of Rakhine, has worsened since Washington started easing sanctions, and a Reuters special report published last week found apartheid-like policies segregating minority Muslims in prison-like ghettos there.

At least 192 people died last year in violence between Buddhists in Rakhine and Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship by Myanmar. Most of the victims, and the 140,000 people made homeless in the attacks, were Muslims. DM

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama sits next to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein (L) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington May 20, 2013. Obama said on Monday that Thein Sein planned to release more political prisoners and institutionalize democratic reforms in his country. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Gallery

While we have your attention...

An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money, though not nearly as much as its absence can cost global community. No country can live and prosper without truth - that's why it matters.

Every Daily Maverick article and every Scorpio exposé are our contribution to this unshakeable mission. It is by far the most effective investment into South Africa's future.

Join our mission to become a Maverick Insider. Together we can Defend Defend Truth.


Scorpio

The Great Art Heist: ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule in ‘stolen’ Pierneef painting debacle

By Pieter-Louis Myburgh for Scorpio

"Men are good in one way, but bad in many" ~ Aristotle