We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern regarding the recent report by Human Rights Watch that reveals that the U.S. government “plans to announce the lifting of key sanctions during Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Washington, DC,” beginning on September 13.1 Despite the marked democratic progress and peacebuilding activities that have taken place in Burma since last November’s election—which we applaud—there remain a number of pressing issues threatening the stability of the country and its most vulnerable people. These issues are deeply concerning as they include the severest of human rights abuses, and progress on these dire matters should be required to lift further sanctions.
In February 2016, UNHCR recorded 1.53 million people of concern in Burma, approximately 120,000 of whom are persecuted Muslim Rohingya people living in squalid camps since they were displaced by violence in 2012.2 Another million Rohingya continue to be persecuted throughout the country with heavily restricted rights, including on their freedom of movement, ability to marry and have children, and access to medicine. This group is particularly vulnerable as the government of Burma fails to recognize them as citizens, rendering them stateless. While the appointment of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by Kofi Annan, is welcome, there must be demonstrated progress well before the Commission releases its report a year from now. As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and others have warned, the Rohingya remain at a high risk of genocide.
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