The United States government supports Burmese President Thein Sein’s call for tolerance and mutual respect to quell communal violence that broke out in central Burma on March 20. The president emphasized the need for mutual understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence as Burma undergoes its historic democratic transition. His message demonstrates the government’s commitment to working toward an inclusive, pluralistic society where basic freedoms and human rights are respected.
Authorities report that 42 people have been killed, 37 religious buildings and 1,227 houses have been damaged or destroyed during the unrest in the central city of Meikhtila.
The president’s call for religious tolerance, human dignity and democracy sends a strong signal that violence against minority communities is unacceptable in the new Burma. Some Buddhist, Muslim and civil society groups are mobilizing to stem violence and spread messages of tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
The United States is deeply concerned about the loss of life and widespread property damage in Burma. We extend our deepest condolences to those affected by the violence, including families of the victims. To aid those affected by the violence, the United States has provided $100,000 in non-food assistance, including blankets, hygiene kits and plastic sheeting.
The president vowed to make the utmost effort to halt the violence and incitement of racial hatred. We urge authorities to restore order and maintain peace in a manner that respects human rights and due process of law. We also call on the Burmese government to provide immediate assistance equitably to all those in need and bring those accountable to justice.
Burma is an ethnically and religiously diverse country. Fostering tolerance and mutual respect between its many peoples remains one of its most important challenges. Building a pluralistic and tolerant society should be a key element in the nation’s broader reform efforts. The United States and the broader international community stand ready to assist the people and the government of Burma in its historic democratic transition.