20 Jun 2012
US praises govt response to sectarian clashes
Myanmar will embark on a “second wave of reforms” that will include tentative privatisation and a law on the minimum wage, President Thein Sein said yesterday, indicating no let-up in the country’s rapid economic overhaul.
Meanwhile, Michael Thurston, the US embassy’s charge d’affaires in Myanmar yesterday praised Myanmar’s response to recent deadly sectarian fighting, despite criticism by rights group Amnesty International that Muslim Rohingyas are still fleeing arbitrary arrest by border forces.
The vote of confidence from Washington will be a welcome relief to reformist President Thein Sein after mob violence in western Myanmar last week threatened to derail the country’s move towards democracy.
If there are human rights abuses, the United States wants to see them fully investigated, a US embassy spokesman added.
In his address, the reformist president said the government will enact a foreign investment law in the next parliamentary session, expected next month. The government was also drafting laws on industrial zones and a minimum wage.
In the wake of sectarian riots in northwest Myanmar that killed 50 people and displaced 30,000, he also vowed to “continue to work on national reconciliation, national peace and stability and the rule of law, and the safety of the public”.
His speech was short on politics, but in a veiled reference to the recent sectarian riots between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya, he warned of “incitement” and urged the public to “work in a united manner for the country’s development”.
Despite the upbeat US assessment, much of northern Rakhine state remains a no-go area from which journalists and independent observers are banned, making it impossible to verify the government’s version of events.
The World Food Programme yesterday said the recent violence had displaced 90,000 people, or three times more than the government’s estimate. This has raised fears that the official death toll of 50 could also rise dramatically.
There has also been no mention in state media of hundreds of Rohingyas attempting to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh, a point London-based Amnesty International highlighted in a report yesterday.