President Obama recently singled out Burma as a U.S. foreign policy victory — a country that had emerged from decades of military rule and turned toward the West, thanks in part to American diplomacy. If Burma succeeds, the president told West Point cadets recently, “we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.”
But that optimism is misplaced. Two years after Obama made a historic visit to the Southeast Asian nation, the achievement is in jeopardy. Burma’s government has cracked down on the media. The parliament is considering laws that could restrict religious freedom. And once revered opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who welcomed Obama to her home in 2012, remains constitutionally barred from running for president as the country heads into a pivotal election next year. She is also silent on gross violation of human rights of the minority Muslims in Burma.
As I have noted many times, the situation is most dire in Burma’s western reaches, where more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims are living as virtual prisoners, with little access to health care and food.
The only care provider - Doctors without Borders - has been forced out that has simply worsened the dire condition of the Rohingyas. The fast-deteriorating conditions prompted Tomás Ojéa Quintana, a former United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, to say in April that there is an “element of genocide” in the Rohingyas’ plight.
I have noted many times that what is going on against the minority Muslims in Burma is nothing short of genocide. If someone were to take action against the murderious regime and its criminal Buddhist marauding supporters and partners in crime - it is now and not when they are eliminated.
The setbacks have raised the stakes for Obama’s scheduled November visit to a regional conference in Burma, during which the administration had hoped to showcase the country’s progress as part of its strategic “rebalance” toward Asia. Now even some of Obama’s allies on Capitol Hill have begun to question whether the administration has moved too quickly to embrace Burma’s leadership.
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