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News » International

Rights must matter more in Myanmar, say lobbyists

Coalition urges 'benchmarks and timelines'

Mike MacLachlan, London International

March 22, 2013

A week of lobbying in Washington and Brussels ended on Friday with a call for international action to push ethnic and religious minority rights higher up Myanmar’s reform agenda.

Representatives of the rights groups Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Human Rights Watch and the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand testified at a sub-committee meeting of the European Parliament on Tuesday.

There are “considerable challenges” in ethnic regions, CSW advocate Matthew Jones told the sub-committee on human rights.

He pointed to the continuing army offensives in Kachin state, the ethnic and religious conflict in Rakhine and “continuing violations of religious freedom and other human rights” among the mainly Christian Chin.

“There is a need to encourage clear benchmarks and timelines for reform and to maintain pressure on [Myanmar],” he said.

“Discrimination on grounds of religion and ethnicity is both deep-rooted and institutionalized,” said CHRO’s program director, Salai Za Uk.

The sub-committee condemned “grave human rights violations” in Rakhine and Kachin states and called on the European Union to urge the Myanmar government to allow immediate unrestricted access to the areas.

The condemnation comes as sectarian clashes between Buddhists and Muslims entered a third day in Meikhtila, north of Mandalay, where at least 25 people have been killed and many more injured in uncontrolled rioting.

Meanwhile in Washington, a CHRO and CSW delegation met legislators, State Department officials, staff from the congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In Ottawa next week, a CHRO delegation will meet MPs, senators, government officials and staff at Canada’s newly established Office of Religious Freedom.

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