For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomed the introduction of a resolution that aims to end discrimination against the Rohingya, a minority group in Burma (officially the Union of Myanmar) that is one of the world’s most persecuted ethnic groups.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced House Resolution 418 yesterday afternoon along with co-sponsors Joe Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ). PHR and the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), which advocates for the rights of the Rohingya, have long called for the U.S. government and other leaders in the international community to press for an end to all forms of violence against the Rohingya. PHR, which has a long history working in Burma, is among the human rights organizations that played a strong role in helping push the resolution forward.
“For far too long, the international community has ignored the long-standing persecution of the Rohingya,” said Andrea Gittleman, PHR’s senior legislative counsel. “As discrimination turns into more and more acts of violence and abuse, this vulnerable community urgently needs the United States to press the Burmese government to stem the tide of hatred and violence.”
The resolution calls on the Burmese government to end all forms of persecution and discrimination against the Rohingya and ensure that the fundamental rights of Burma’s minority ethnic and religious groups are respected. It also asks the U.S. government and the international community to put much-needed pressure on the government of Burma to take the necessary steps to end the waves of violence against Rohingya and other Muslims in the country.
Tun Khin, president of BROUK, highlighted the need for the resolution in light of ongoing humanitarian concerns and the large number of Rohingyas who are displaced.
“The basic needs of tens of thousands of Rohingyas are not being adequately addressed, and the longstanding pattern of discrimination against this entire community has continued,” said Tun Khin, who lives in England, but has been in Washington this month to speak about the plight of the Rohingya at several events. “The Rohingya face severe security threats on a regular basis and many are fleeing the country every day. The threat that the whole group will be erased from the country’s map remains a real one. We need leaders – in Burma and beyond – to stand up immediately against this injustice and inequality.”
About 140,000 Rohingya are internally displaced in central Rakhine state, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee to other countries. The Rohighya have long been discriminated against in many ways, including being rendered stateless through deliberate exclusion in the Citizenship Law of 1982, restrictions on travel and marriage, and limitations on access to basic health care, higher education, and civil servant jobs.
Over the last two years, PHR has conducted investigations into targeted violence against Burma’s Muslims, including those who are not of Rohingya ethnicity. PHR documented a massacre in the central Burmese town of Meiktila in March that resulted in the deaths of at least 20 children and four teachers. In August, PHR published a report discussing the systematic patterns of anti-Muslim violence that have spread throughout Burma.
The special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar recently presented a report to the U.N. General Assembly in which he called the situation in Rakhine state a “profound crisis,” discussing the need for the government to stop the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment and violence in the country. Last week, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum highlighted the plight of the Rohingya Muslims with an event that included presentations by Tun Khin, as well as Dr. Holly Atkinson, a PHR volunteer medical advisor.
Vesna Jaksic Lowe, Media Relations Manager, Physicians for Human Rights; vjaksiclowe [at] phrusa [dot] org; 917.679.0110 (m)
Tun Khin, BROUK, tunkhin80 [at] gmail [dot] com; +44 7888714866 (mobile in London)
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.