Policy

Senate Human Rights Caucus Lauds Mike Pence for Pressuring Aung San Suu Kyi

Vice president reportedly called for pardoning of Reuters journalists

Sens. Thom Tillis, left, and Chris Coons, heads of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, are praising Vice President Mike Pence for pressuring Aung San Suu Kyi to release two Reuters journalists. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Vice President Mike Pence is getting bipartisan backing for pressing Aung San Suu Kyi over the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar.

Pence met with the state counsellor of the country, also known as Burma, in connection with his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which has taken him countries across Asia, as well as Australia.

“As co-chairs of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, we have repeatedly condemned the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State and called on the Government of Burma to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo,” said Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “We applaud Vice President Pence for affirming the United States’ commitment to a free and independent press and delivering a strong criticism of the treatment of the Rohingya during his meeting with Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN Summit on Wednesday.”

The senators continued: “The Government of Burma should take immediate steps to improve conditions for the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Burma, including providing a pathway to citizenship for the Rohingya.”

Tillis and Coons expressed a commitment to assist displaced Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh. The development of democracy in Myanmar has been among the most-watched developments in foreign policy in the Senate.

That’s largely because of the long time interest in the country coming from current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senior administration officials told reporters traveling with Pence that the vice president specifically asked Suu Kyi to pardon the Reuters journalists, apparently going even beyond what he had said to Suu Kyi in public.

At the top of the Wednesday meeting with Suu Kyi, Pence said, “Let me also say that, in America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press. And the arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans, and I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press.”

“Let me urge all our nations to do more to address the plight of the Rohingya. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled their homeland because of the slaughter and persecution by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilantes. This is a humanitarian crisis, but we must also beware the potential radicalization of refugees,” Pence also said this week at an East Asia Summit Plenary Session in Singapore.

Watch Also: Ai Weiwei Discusses Refugee Crisis

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