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In January 2007, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that the Myanmar (Union of Burma) military government is actively suppressing religious worship among its minority Christian population.
The persecution has varied from “churches in Rangoon finding it difficult to obtain permission to renovate buildings, to pastors in Chin State being killed.” In the same report, the Myanmar Ministry of Religious Affairs stated, “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practiced.”
Despite denials from the Myanmar government that religious activity is suppressed in their country, the U.S. State Department listed Myanmar as a “country of particular concern” in its 2006 report on International religious freedom.
Perhaps even more alarming was another report released on Feb. 12, 2007, by the Karen Women’s Organization, which documented 959 of the many thousands of rapes and sexual assaults, often followed by murder, reported to have been committed by government troops against women of the minority Shan ethnic group.
In addition, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, which provides aid to thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar into neighboring Thailand, has documented that since 1996 more than 3,000 villages have been destroyed. In 2006 alone, 82,000 people were displaced by violence perpetrated by the government on its own people.
This mounting crisis might shock many in the West. However, it is hardly a surprise to influential neighboring countries in the region such as China, Russia and India.
In 1988, the world watched as Myanmar’s military regime took power by force when it crushed the National League for Democracy, which won an election by an overwhelming majority of the population.
Shocked at the continued deterioration of the situation in Myanmar, the United States recently introduced a UN resolution identifying the conditions in Myanmar as a threat to regional peace, and called for the government to release political prisoners and take steps toward democracy. The resolution was immediately opposed by Russia and China.
On what grounds could members of the Security Council and supposed “leading” nations of the world oppose such a resolution?
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin dismissed the resolution, stating, “We do not think it’s a proper issue to discuss in the Security Council.” Deputy UN Ambassador from China Liu Zhenmin agreed that the situation in Myanmar did not threaten international security.
Last week, representatives from India, China and Russia met in New Delhi, India, for a “Summit to Promote International Peace,” where they discussed energy and economic cooperation among their nations and criticized U.S. policies in Iraq. The crisis in neighboring Myanmar was not a priority on the agenda.
Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK lobbying group recently summarized the situation by stating, “There isn’t a government in Asia or Europe that could honestly claim they have done all they could to prevent these abuses. Every day women are raped, forced into slave labor, tortured and killed, yet the United Nations and most governments have no sense of urgency that something needs to be done” (International Herald Tribune).
Will other nations take action in horrific human rights crises such as the one in Myanmar? How long will the international community continue to sit idly by as atrocities continue?