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ICC Note: Despite a relatively new democratic government and promises of greater freedoms, Burma remains rife with examples of human rights violations either tolerated or perpetrated by the Burmese government. In many areas discrimination against ethnic minorities is mixed with religious discrimination against Christians. At least on report has documented dozens of churches burned down by Burmese military forces in Kachin State since the summer of 2011 after a renewed offensive against the Kachin began. Meanwhile the Burmese military, comprised almost entirely of Buddhist soldiers, leaves pagodas untouched. 
3/22/2013 Burma (CSW) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) today called on the international community to push ethnic and religious minority rights higher up the reforms agenda for Burma, while wrapping up a week of advocacy in both Brussels and Washington DC.
On Tuesday this week, representatives from CSW, CHRO, Human Rights Watch, and the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand testified at a hearing on Burma at the Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament in Brussels, which focused on the situation in ethnic areas.
During his testimony, CHRO’s Program Director Salai Za Uk Ling described how Chin Christian children and youth are coerced to convert to Buddhism at military-run ‘youth development training schools’. Salai Za Uk Ling said: “Discrimination on grounds of religion and ethnicity is both deep-rooted and institutionalized. Current reforms in Burma should focus on dismantling the institutional structures and policies that enable continued discrimination and forced assimilation against ethnic and religious minorities.”
CSW’s Senior Advocate UK/UN Matthew Jones said: “We see considerable challenges in Burma’s ethnic regions including in the Burmese Army’s offensives against civilians in Kachin State, the conflict and suffering of the Rohingya in Rakhine State, and continuing violations of religious freedom and other human rights in Chin State… There is a need to encourage clear benchmarks and timelines for reform, and to maintain pressure on Burma to take steps to address human rights violations and engage in a meaningful nationwide peace process and political dialogue.”
The panel strongly condemned grave human rights violations in Rakhine and Kachin States, and called on the European Union (EU) to urge President Thein Sein’s government to allow immediate unrestricted humanitarian access to those areas.

CHRO’s Executive Director Salai Bawi Lian Mang said, “Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities runs deep within the Burma Army. These latest incidents once again show the direct correlation between the presence of Burma Army soldiers in Chin State, and human rights abuses. We welcome the ceasefire agreement, but the international community must recognize that this is only a first step. So far, there has been no discussion about troop withdrawal from Chin State. As long as there is a heavy military presence, we expect human rights abuses to continue.”

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