Christians in the country face discrimination, forced conversions, violence and desecration of churches and Christian communities says the USCIRF Report "Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma." Meanwhile, according to "Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma," members of the Muslim ethnic group are denied basic human rights like food, shelter, water, citizenship, or the ability to move.
The reports come days after international human rights organization Human Rights Watch released an analysis of images taken of a Rohingya village in Rakhine state, which it says link the Burmese army to the arson of the village.
"Burmese government officials have been caught out by this satellite imagery, and it's time they recognize their continued denials lack credibility," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement to the BBC. The Burmese government has denied its involvement in the burning down of Rohingya villages, instead suggesting that the Rohingya set their own homes on fire to solicit international sympathy.
The United Nations estimates that since October more than 27,000 Rohingya have crossed the border to seek refuge in Bangladesh.
Since 1999, USCIRF has recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate Burma a "Country of Particular Concern" for its "systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations of religious freedom," explained the organization. In its reports, the commission offered hope that the new Burmese government would address these ongoing human rights concerns, but urged that the government take action on securing religious freedom promptly.
Rachel Flemming, an independent human rights researcher, detailed the abuses Christians – many of whom also belong to minority ethnic groups – face in the country. Throughout the country, Christians face restrictions in not only buying land for churches or for erecting Christian symbols, but also to assemble for religious worship. Christian churches, cemeteries, and other Christian spaces are frequently desecrated and attacked. Christians themselves are attacked by authorities and civilians alike – and these attacks are often dismissed as false claims.