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Junta Continues to Suppress Religious Freedom: US
by Rohingya Human Rights
2009-11-03 07:49:42
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The Burmese military junta continues to oppress people on religious grounds and actively promotes Theravada Buddhism, said a US report on religion released last Monday.

"It systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom," the State Department said in its annual International Religious Freedom Report 2009.

"Adherence to Buddhism remains generally a prerequisite for promotion to senior government and military ranks. Anti-Muslim violence continued, as did the close monitoring of Muslims' activities. Restrictions on Christians and other non-Buddhist minority groups also continued throughout the country," the report said.

The report examined how governments in 198 countries and territories protect or fail to protect religious freedom, calling attention to abuse and positive steps taken by many countries to promote freedom and interreligious harmony."

The Burma section of the report noted that many of the Buddhist monks arrested in the violent crackdown that followed the pro-democracy demonstrations of September 2007, including prominent activist monk U Gambira, remain in prison serving long sentences.

Noting that the Burmese military junta systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom, the report said the junta actively promoted Theravada Buddhism, particularly among minority ethnic groups.

"Although there were no new reports of forced conversions of non-Buddhists, the government applied pressure on students and poor youth to convert to Buddhism," it said.

This is the first report of the Obama administration on international religious freedom, which becomes in factor in the United States designating countries into various categories. Earlier this year, days before the Bush administration left office, it put Burma along with China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan under the category of "Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)."

Michael H. Posner, the assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, said a new CPC list is expected in the next few months.
"We are eager to at least get it done by January, and I'd like to say sooner. We have the ability throughout the year to make designations or remove countries," he said.

Burma was first designated a CPC in 1999 and most recently was re-designated on Jan. 16, 2009.



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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-03 10:25:23
The above touches on the issue of human rights and freedom of religion. Indeed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers the recanting, or apostasy, or the exercise of the freedom to chose a religion, to adopt a religion or belief, not excluding atheistic views, (article 18.2) as a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It bars coercion that impairs that freedom, or forces recanting of one’s religion or belief or to convert.

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