WASHINGTON - Raising concerns about Buddhist attacks against Muslims, US President Barack Obama has urged Burma to end violence against the Muslim minority in the Asian country.
"I also shared with President Sein our deep concern about communal violence that has been directed at Muslim communities inside Myanmar (Burma), Obama said during talks with Burmese president Thein Sein on Monday, May 20, Reuters reported.
The displacement of people, the violence directed towards them needs to stop.
More than 200 people were killed last year in sectarian violence between Buddhist mobs and Bengali-ethnic Muslims, known as Rohingya in western Burma.
The violence has forced thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes and stay in refugee camps.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingya Muslims.
Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya with killing, rape and arrest following last year's unrest.
Attacks against Muslims and mosques also spread to central Burma in April after a dispute between a Buddhist couple and gold shop owners in the city of Meikhtila.
Many have heaped the blame on Buddhist monks for inciting violence against Muslims in the Asian country.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims have been facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland Burma.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term Rohingya, referring to them as Bengalis.
Pledging to end sectarian violence in Burma, the Burmese President vowed to introduce reforms to build an inclusive society in Burma.
"Myanmar people of all ethnic backgrounds and all faiths -- Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others -- must feel part of this new national identity," Sein said.
He, however, stopped short of directly mentioning the Rohingya.
"We must end all forms of discrimination and ensure not only that intercommunal violence is brought to a halt, but that all perpetrators are brought to justice," he said at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
Sein, who took office as a nominal civilian in 2011, said that the reforms he has undertaken were "unprecedented".
"Periods of transition are always fraught with risk. But I know my country and my people," he said.
"I know how much people want to see democracy take root, put behind decades of isolation, catch up with other Asian economies and end all violence and fighting.
Sein appealed for US assistance and understanding" as the Asian country attempts difficult reforms.
"To achieve all this we need maximum international support, including from the United States, to train and educate, share knowledge, trade and invest, and encourage others to do the same," he told an audience at a Washington university.
Burma's Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net