A US government agency has urged Myanmar’s new regime to reverse its “abusive policies” against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in a statement released on Thursday called on the new Myanmar government to safeguard freedom of religion in the Southeast Asian nation.
“One such step is Burma’s government radically changing its abusive policies and practices in Rakhine state, which have harmed members of the ethnic communities who live there, especially Rohingya Muslims,” the statement read.
Discriminatory laws against minorities, including Muslims and Christians, should be dropped, it said, referring notably to the 1982 Citizenship Law.
The law distinguishes between three categories of citizenship, namely citizenship, associate citizenship, and naturalized citizenship.
The US, however, maintains close relations with the Myanmar government, including Aung San Suu Kyi who became the country’s de facto prime minister recently.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has repeatedly come under fire for her failure to condemn the persecution of Muslims.
Last month, it was revealed that she lost her composure after being challenged by a BBC presenter on the massacres of Muslims in Myanmar.
For years, the politician has been widely promoted by Western media as a pro-democracy icon and a symbol of virtuousness.
Persecution of Rohingyas
According to the United Nations, Rohingya Muslims are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, with Myanmar denying full citizenship to the Muslim community of over 1.3 million.
In recent years, a large number of Rohingya Muslims have been killed and thousands displaced in attacks by extremist Buddhists, especially in Rakhine State.
The violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has triggered an influx of refugees into neighboring countries, namely Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Some 140,000 displaced Rohingya Muslims live in camps as their villages were torched down in 2012.
Last month, John Ging of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said he was shocked by the conditions at temporary shelters for the Rohingyas.
He said many of the Rohingya Muslims were denied medical treatment because of their religion.
“It was heartbreaking to see so many children in these dreadful conditions. One mother told me that her baby, less than a month old, died from lack of oxygen in December after she was denied access to treatment at the nearby township hospital,” the UN official said.