Wednesday, May 4, 2011

US lawmakers want urgent UN probe on Myanmar

Tue May 3, 2:53 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers called Tuesday on President Barack Obama to show greater urgency in setting up a UN probe into alleged war crimes in Myanmar, saying that widespread abuses were going unpunished.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in August last year that the United States would support a UN commission of inquiry, which could lead to charges against the military-backed regime in the country also known as Burma.
But activists say that the Obama administration's backing has only been rhetorical, with some policymakers believing that there is not yet enough global support for a probe amid certain opposition by Myanmar's ally China.
In a letter to Obama, 31 members of the House of Representatives said that "the military regime's continuous egregious crimes against humanity continues" which "requires a renewed sense of urgency."
"We believe the time has come to once and for all make this happen," they wrote.
"We strongly urge you to redouble United States efforts, at the highest levels, to establish the commission," the letter said.
The letter was led by lawmakers including Representative Joe Crowley, a member of Obama's Democratic Party from New York who is active on Myanmar, and Representative Don Manzullo, a Republican from Illinois who heads the East Asia subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The letter pointed to a January report by the Physicians for Human Rights group, which found mass rape against ethnic minority women and said more than 90 percent of families in Chin state reported at least one relative forced into labor.
The Obama administration in 2009 launched an engagement drive with Myanmar, saying that Western efforts to isolate the regime had failed.
The administration has said it has been disappointed by the results but plans to continue talks, seeing no better alternative.