Burma Christian Persecution: US to Improve Ties Upon Reform

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is ready to become a partner with Burma if the Asian country takes steps to reform.

Burma came under attack recently for a slew of human rights violations that target the nation’s Christian minority, largely located in Kachin state that borders China and India.

Burmese officials ordered Christians in the Phakant Township in Kachin state to submit a written request at least 15 days in advance to read the Bible, host Sunday school or pray, according to reports.

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In October, Burmese military officials beat and arrested five men, including Pastor Jan Ma Aung Li of the Catholic Association, according to Mizzima, a news organization run by Burmese journalists in India. The men were later released.

Christians are also forbidden to build new churches. Religious symbols, such as crosses, were removed by the military, and officials, according to a Human Rights Watch report, confiscated food and homes.

Clinton’s comments came as she addressed reporters in Honolulu Thursday ahead of the upcoming Asia-Pacific summit.

"Many questions remain, including the government's continued detention of political prisoners and whether reform will be sustained and extended to include peace and reconciliation in the ethnic minority areas," said Clinton. "Should the government pursue genuine and lasting reform for the benefits of its citizens, it will find a partner in the United States."

Derek Mitchell, a U.S. special envoy to Burma, previously said the U.S. is ready to offer the country incentives for reforms, according to the AFP.

It is unclear what defines “genuine and lasting reform” as stated by Clinton.

Burma, largely for religious intolerance and other abuses, shares a place on the State Department’s list with China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudia Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

The apparent change in U.S. policy coincides with government officials’ plan to improve ties with Asian nations, according to reports.

“And one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decades will be to lock in a substantially increased investment - diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise - in this region," Clinton added.

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