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Cameron must press Burmese president over human rights of Rohingya Muslims during UK visit

‘Thein Sein’s dismal handling of the situation is unacceptable, and we fully expect to hear Cameron say so’ - Kate Allen

Prime Minister David Cameron should challenge Burma’s president over what it described as the “appalling” human rights situation affecting Rohingya Muslims in Burma during the president’s current visit to Britain, Amnesty International said today.

The visit from Burmese President Thein Sein presents an opportunity for David Cameron to raise concerns about the clashes between Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine state, which have continued since violence erupted in June 2012. The violence has left scores dead and injured, and resulted in widespread destruction and displacement

Amnesty has also recently raised concerns about the continuing arrest, detention, and threats made against human rights defenders and peaceful protesters in Burma which serve as a stark reminder that basic freedoms remain at risk in the country.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Greeting President Thein Sein as a ‘reformer’ and setting about fostering business ties between the countries is all well and good, but David Cameron has a duty to press Thein Sein on the appalling human rights abuses which are ongoing in Burma.

“We need to hear the British government talking about accountability and responsibilities - this can’t be a back-slapping exercise.

“The violence in Burma’s Rakhine state is absolutely horrifying. Hundreds have died, thousands are displaced and the security forces have failed to protect civilians and are themselves responsible for some horrendous acts of violence.

“We are talking about a festering wound of division in Burma which the government is compounding by refusing to grant Rohingya people citizenship. Thein Sein’s dismal handling of the situation is unacceptable, and we fully expect to hear Cameron say so.”

Amnesty has condemned Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which has rendered the country’s Rohingya Muslims effectively stateless, contrary to international human rights standards which stipulate that no one must be left stateless. Anything short of granting the Rohingya equal access to citizenship is in itself a form of discrimination which should be urgently addressed, insists Amnesty.

According to United Nations estimates, some 140,000 people remain displaced across Rakhine state with limited access to bare necessities like food and medical care.

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