Human Rights Group Warns of Genocide in Western Burma

For immediate release: November 9, 2012 Citing “ominous warning signs of genocide”, United to End Genocide, a Washington, DC-based activist organization dedicated to preventing and ending genocide, called on the Obama administration to take strong and immediate steps to stop the systematic violence and attacks against the Rohingya population of Rakhine State in western Burma. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United to End Genocide President and former Congressman Tom Andrews called the U.S. and international response to the violence “wholly inadequate” and warned that without a change of course a catastrophe will follow that will claim many thousands of innocent lives. “Madame Secretary, there are clear and ominous warning signs of genocide. An entire people are under attack not because of what they have done but because of who they are.” Andrews charged that President Thein Sein of Burma has fomented bitterness and hatred in Burma while seeking international support for ethnic cleansing. President Thein Sein has asked the United Nations to arrange for 800,000 Rohingya people to be placed in refugee camps or removed entirely from Burma. The Burmese government denies citizenship to the Rohingya and has systematically failed to protect them. New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Muslim area off the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu – one of several areas of new violence and displacement. More than one hundred people have been killed and more than one hundred thousand displaced with the tacit or overt support of the government. “The hateful rhetoric of Rakhine monks is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathizers in the lead up and during the Rwandan genocide”, said Andrews. “While renewing calls for their expulsion from Burma, several Rakhine monks have urged the local population to sever all relations with the Rohingya, including trade and the provision of humanitarian aid and have called on Rakhines to expose Rohingya sympathizers as national traitors, potentially opening them up to violent attacks.” “There is a highly flammable toxic mix of conditions in western Burma that can explode into genocide unless strong action is taken now,” he said. Andrews called on the U.S. government take a lead in mobilizing a robust international response to these deteriorating conditions. “The U.S. government needs to use its diplomatic leverage to push the Burmese government to ensure that immediate steps are taken to stop the systematic violence – and the threat of violence – against the Rohingya. The U.S. should call for United Nations mandated international observers to be deployed on the ground to investigate the scale of the violence, deter escalation, and ultimately hold perpetrators accountable. International aid organizations and media should have immediate access to the area under siege and the U.S. should call on the government to change its 1982 Citizenship Law so that it conforms with international standards. The planned visit by President Obama should be suspended until these conditions are met.” Andrews said that the Obama administration’s lifting of economic pressure and its restoration of full diplomatic relations with the government of Burma brings a special responsibility to use its leverage to avert a catastrophe. ______________________________________________ November 9, 2012 The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State United States Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520   Dear Secretary Clinton: On behalf of United to End Genocide I urge you to take immediate action to stop the systematic violence and vicious attacks against the Rohingya population of Rakhine State in western Burma. Madame Secretary, there are clear and ominous warning signs of genocide – warning signs that must be heeded immediately to avoid a catastrophe that could claim many thousands of lives. An entire people are under attack not because of what they have done but because of who they are. President Thein Sein has fomented hatred and has even sought international support for ethnic cleansing, asking the United Nations to arrange for 800,000 Rohingya people to be placed in refugee camps or removed entirely from Burma. The Burmese government denies citizenship to the Rohingya and has systematically failed to protect them. New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Muslim area off the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu—one of several areas of new violence and displacement. More than one hundred people have been killed and more than one hundred thousand displaced with the tacit or overt support of the government. The hateful rhetoric of Rakhine monks is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathizers in the lead up and during the Rwandan genocide. While renewing calls for their expulsion from Burma, several Rakhine monks have urged the local population to sever all relations with the Rohingya, including trade and the provision of humanitarian aid and have called on Rakhines to expose Rohingya sympathizers as national traitors, potentially opening them up to violent attacks. The response from the United States and the international community has been wholly inadequate. The conditions that led to two major outbreaks of mass killings in the last few months are getting worse. Greater loss of life and displacement are a certainty without a change of course. It is imperative that the United States take a lead in mobilizing a robust international response to these deteriorating conditions. Vague statements of concern urging all parties to exercise restraint and show “mutual respect among all ethnic and religious groups” demonstrates a failure to appreciate the reality in Rakhine State and the extreme danger facing the Rohingya people. The U.S. government needs to use its diplomatic leverage to push the Burmese government to ensure that immediate steps are taken to stop the systematic violence – and the threat of violence – against the Rohingya. The United States should call for United Nations mandated international observers to be deployed on the ground to investigate the scale of the violence, deter escalation, and ultimately hold perpetrators accountable. International aid organizations and media should have immediate access to the area under siege and the U.S. should call on the government to change its 1982 Citizenship Law so that it conforms with international standards. The planned visit by President Obama should be suspended until these conditions are met. The U.S. government has taken several highly publicized steps to normalize diplomatic relations with Burma in support of reforms announced by the government. The leading role that the administration played in scaling back sanctions on Burma obligates the U.S. government to act urgently to hold the Burmese government to its responsibilities to protect its ethnic populations. Your consideration of this urgent request is appreciated. Sincerely, Thomas H. Andrews President United to End Genocide cc: Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Council Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Department of State Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asia and the Pacific, Department of State Jake Sullivan, Director, Policy Planning, Department of State Daniel Russel, Senior Director for Asia, National Security Council Patrick Murphy, Deputy Special Representative for Burma, Bureau of East Asia and the Pacific, Department of State Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State
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