April 14, 2021
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No Reform without National Reconciliation: Obama

20 November 2012: During his historic speech at the University of Rangoon, President Obama yesterday said national reconciliation is key to enduring reforms in Burma.

He said: “No process of reform will not succeed without national reconciliation,” as he called for an end to ethnic conflicts in the country.

Likening America to Burma in the nature of diversity, the US President stressed the importance of drawing on diversity as a strength, not a weakness, adding: “Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures.”

At the start of his speech, Mr. President said one of the reasons he came to Burma was because of the beauty and diversity of the country.

While welcoming the progress of reform, Barack Obama expressed his concerns over an ongoing ethnic conflict in Kachin State and violence in Rakhine State of Burma.

The reform, he said, must meet the daily lives of those who are hungry, ill, poor and live without electricity or water.

Realizing what has been going on in the ethnic areas, President Obama also put an emphasis on the reform to ensure that the people of Burma must have the most fundamental right of land ownership – the right to own, the title to the land on which they live and work.

As the third main point of his speech, Obama talked about the issue on the freedom of worship, adding: “The freedom of worship as you please and your right to basic human dignity.”

Three days before his visit as the first serving US President to Burma, Obama was urged by over 20 members of US Congress and Senators to raise religious discrimination against Chin Christians.

Their letter said: “Chin is the poorest state in all of Burma and, for several decades, Chin communities have suffered institutionalized discrimination on the basis of both ethnicity and religion which has led to thousands of Chin refugees fleeing to neighboring India.”

“Religious freedom and human rights atrocities have long been utilized against the Chin and include forced labor and conversion, torture, rape, restrictions on construction of Christian infrastructure, violations of peaceful religious assembly, and threats of intimidation and harassment of pastors and missionaries.”

In September this year, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) met with officials from the US Mission to the UN, US and Canadian embassies, UN agencies, European Parliament and departments of Foreign Affairs in Europe following their report on persecution of ethnic Chin Christians in Burma.

President Obama called on the government of Burma to ‘transform ceasefires into lasting settlement’ as he pressed for the need to fight against corruption in order to make the reform progress successful.

In their letter to President Obama, members of the US Congress and Senators said Burma still has a very long road ahead and the U.S. must continue to advocate for the full inclusion of ethnic and religious groups within Burmese society and within the political process.

Van Biak Thang
[email protected]

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