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ICC Note: In State Department’s religious freedom report released on May 29, Myanmar’s military campaign to eliminate or drive away its ethnic minorities has intensified. Fighting between the government and rebels in Rakhine state and Kachin state have affected nearly 700,000 mostly Muslim and Christian ethnic minorities.

05/29/2018 Myanmar (New York Times) – Myanmar’s military campaign to kill or drive away its ethnic minorities is worsening despite a growing international outcry, according to a State Department religious freedom report that was released on Tuesday.

Violence against the Rohingya, nearly all of whom are Muslim, in the country’s Rakhine state has been likened to ethnic cleansing and has tarnished the reputation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate whose party now controls Myanmar. The new report found that an unknown number of Rohingya are displaced throughout Myanmar, formerly Burma, and an estimated 688,000 have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Additionally, the State Department said authorities in Myanmar were “doubling down” against ethnic minorities with a new campaign against the largely Christian minority in Kachin state. Fighting between the government and rebels in Kachin has flared for decades but restarted in earnest in 2011, according to the report.

The United Nations estimates that 100,000 civilians remain displaced in both Kachin and Shan states as a result of that fighting, the report said. Religion and ethnicity in Myanmar are closely linked.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the annual report on Tuesday with Ambassador Sam Brownback, the former governor of Kansas who now serves as the State Department envoy for international religious freedom. Mr. Pompeo also said he would hold an international symposium on religious freedoms in late July in Washington.

“The ministerial will also be my first to host as the secretary of state, and that’s very intentional,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “Religious freedom is, indeed, a universal human right that I will fight for.”

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