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October 2, 2013
Daniel R. Russel Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs United States Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520 Dear Assistant Secretary Russel, We write to urge you to address the troubling anti-Muslim violence in Burma that United to End Genocide and our allies on the ground in Burma have been warning about for months. An international Commission of Inquiry is needed and pressure should be brought on the Burmese authorities who have failed to prevent violence, protect the Muslim minority, and hold accountable those who are stoking and carrying out the violence. Over the past week we have received numerous reports from the ground in Rakhine state about antiMuslim riots and failure of state security forces to respond. Much of this is now being reported by western media. The latest bout of anti-Muslim violence against Kaman Muslims in and around Thandwe in Rakhine state included burning of a mosque and scores of homes, the displacement of hundreds, and at least 5 deaths including a 94-year old Muslim woman who was stabbed to death. While we welcome the statement released by the U.S. Embassy calling upon Burmese leaders and citizens to stand against the violence and for the authorities to “respond quickly and decisively” to protect and assist vulnerable populations, this clearly has not been the case. In what is by now a well-established pattern, witnesses on the ground tell of soldiers and police standing by and making no effort to stop the violence against Muslims. The same has been reported by high-level United Nations officials and independent international human rights groups in previous violence against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state as well as in a massacre of Muslims in Meiktila in central Burma. In his visit to camps for internally displaced camps in Rakhine state just last month, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma Tomas Quintana noted tight control by police and security forces with severe restrictions on freedom of movement, arbitrary detainment and flawed trials of Muslims, and use of live ammunition to disperse crowds, and stated, “Security forces need to stop the use of excessive force.” Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, and Physicians for Human Rights have found evidence of direct state complicity in ethnic cleansing and severe human rights abuses, blocking of humanitarian aid, and incitement of anti-Muslim violence.
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Overall, in Rakhine state since June 2012 more than 140,000 people have been displaced and some 200 killed. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the victims have been Muslim, it is Muslims who have been disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for the clashes. Not enough has been done to address the systematic spread of hateful rhetoric and propaganda spread by the radical Buddhist “969 movement”. As I recently testified before the U.S. Congress, in visits and reports from the ground I am seeing “a highly flammable toxic mix of conditions in Burma that can explode into massive violence and genocide unless action is taken to stop it.” Given the widespread anti-Muslim and in particular anti-Rohingya sentiments in Burma, the only source of genuine pressure on the military dominated government of Burma – particularly when it comes to the plight of the Muslim minority community – is from the outside. And, the single most important source of that pressure is the United States. As long as the Burmese authorities prove unwilling or unable to protect Muslims and other minorities in Burma the United States must use whatever leverage it has left to urge them to do so. This includes tying further progress on military to military relations and trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to measurable benchmarks of progress in stopping severe human rights abuses and holding those responsible to account. Where there is evidence of direct state complicity in abuses, those responsible must be held to account or else the Burmese government itself must be held to account by the United States and the rest of the international community. And as long as the Burmese government fails to ensure accountability for the ongoing abuses and incitement of violence, the international community is needed to step in with an International Commission of Inquiry. An opportunity to establish such a Commission is immediately available through language in the next UN General Assembly resolution on Burma and should be seized. Sincerely,
Thomas H. Andrews President United to End Genocide CC: Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary, Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Stephen Pomper, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, National Security Council Derek Mitchell, U.S. Ambassador to Burma, U.S. Department of State Evan Medeiros, Senior Director for East Asian Affairs, National Security Council Judith Cefkin, Senior Advisor for Burma, U.S. Department of State