FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2017
USCIRF Strongly Condemns Violence in Burma’s Rakhine State and Calls for Efforts to Protect Rohingya Muslims
USCIRF chairman describes the Rohingya plight as a “staggering humanitarian disaster”
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns attacks on civilians and security forces in Burma’s Rakhine State. Hundreds have been killed and approximately 300,000 Rohingya Muslims recently have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. This number is expected to grow in the days and weeks ahead. Burma’s security forces have razed entire villages, slaughtered families, and even placed landmines in the path of fleeing refugees, creating “a staggering humanitarian disaster,” according to USCIRF’s Chairman Daniel Mark.
“Burma’s security forces must end their attacks on civilians in Rakhine State,” said Chairman Mark. “We call upon Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to unequivocally condemn the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. Burma’s government and military must uphold their international humanitarian and human rights commitments.”
Beginning on August 25 and rapidly escalating ever since, Burma’s security forces have conducted disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks against Rohingya Muslims, conflating the unlawful and deadly acts of a few with the overwhelmingly peaceful population now fleeing for its life. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s violent actions against state forces have put countless lives at risk and the Commission condemns its attacks as well. Alas, collectively, innocent Rohingya and Kaman Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others in Rakhine State all suffer from the violence.
Most Rohingya refugees are fleeing into Bangladesh, which suffers from flooding and scarce resources. “For decades, Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingya refugees, estimated at as many as 500,000 people before the latest crisis,” said Chairman Mark. “Violence and persecution in Burma have driven nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh in the last year alone.”
USCIRF strongly urges Burma to collaborate with international partners like the United Nations and humanitarian aid organizations, as well as regional stakeholders such as Bangladesh and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to ensure that Rohingya Muslims and other vulnerable populations immediately receive adequate resources and compassionate care.
A concise explanation of the Rohingya plight may be found in USCIRF’s report Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/ +1-202-786-0611).