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“It is Time for The World to Join Fully Demanding Liberty in Burma” Said USCIRF Chair

December 4, 2007 – Washington DC: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a non-partisan panel appointed by the US president and leaders of Congress held public hearing on Burma at the Capitol Hill on Monday.

Coinciding with a brief resumption of legislative activity by the U.S. Congress, four members of the commission led by the Commission vice chair Mr. Richard Land presided over the hearing to assess the current situation in Burma .

Mr. Land quoted Dr. Martin Luther King in his opening remark that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressors. It must be demanded by the oppressed”. He continued that “The people of Burma are demanding their liberty. It is time for the world to join them fully in this cause”.

“Along with the U.S government, the Commission believes that it is time for the Burmese generals to step aside and make way for a unified Burma governed by its elected leaders. That is the only way that regional security can be assured and massive humanitarian and human rights and religious freedom abuses can be resolved” said the Commission Chair Mr. Land in his opening remark at the hearing.

The seven witnessed at the hearing include Ashin Nayaka, exile Burmese Buddhist monk who is a visiting professor at Columbia University, Ms. Chris Lewa, coordinator of the Arakan Project and consultant for Refugee International and UNHCR, Salai Bawi Lian, director of Chin Human Rights Organization, Aung Din, Policy Director at U. S Campaign for Burma, Paul Rush, a journalist who witnessed and report bloody crackdown in Burma during September, Michael Green, Professor at Georgetown University and former Special Assistant on National Security Affairs to President Bush, Jared Genser, President of Freedom Now and an attorney in the global government.

Ashin Nayaka, a Buddhist scholar and leading member of International Burmese Monks, said monks were a symbol of hope for reforms in Burma but were “forcibly disrobed, assaulted, arrested and killed” by the military junta.

Paul Rush, a journalist whose video footage of Burmese troops in Rangoon shooting and killing a Japanese journalist was widely seen around the world suggests Burma ‘s military is likely continuing a brutal crackdown.

“The Burmese people, which include the country’s badly-persecuted ethnic minorities need the help of the international community, to shed this yoke of a half a century of oppression by a minority of murderous military elite. That I presume is why this hearing is taking place today and is why the international community is still listening,” said Mr. Rush.

Salai Bawi Lian, director of Chin Human Rights Organization said that “the whole world was shocked to see how the Burmese military junta persecuted Buddhist monks in the street on Rangoon a few months ago. In fact the successive Burmese military junta has been systematically persecuting religious minority groups such as Chin Christians for decades.”

He continued that “the Burmese military junta violate the religious freedom rights of Chin Christians that they prohibit construction of churches, destroyed crosses and replaced with pagodas or statue of Buddhist monk, censor Christian literature and publication, restrict on freedom of assembly and worship, discriminate based on ethnicity and religion”.

Aung Din, policy director of the United States Campaign for Burma , urged the U.S government to appoint a full-time sanctions coordinator for Burma as it did in the late 1990’s against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s regime accused of genocide.

A former Special Assistant on National Security Affairs to President Bush, Professor Michael Green, says while there have been some positive developments, including high profile attention from the Bush administration, some strong statements from ASEAN, and what he calls small but unprecedented steps by China , there has also been substantial inertia by the international community.

The hearing of the Commission on International Religious Freedom comes as Congress began an intense two week period in which lawmakers must approve a range of important funding and policy legislation.

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