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Government Forces Targeting Rohingya Muslims

Human Rights Desk

Authorities Burmese security forces committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in western Burma in June 2012.

Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left many of the over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care.

The report, “‘The Government Could Have Stopped This’: Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan State,” describes how the Burmese authorities failed to take adequate measures to stem rising tensions and the outbreak of sectarian violence in Arakan State. Though the army eventually contained the mob violence in the state capital, Sittwe, both Arakan and Rohingya witnesses told Human Rights Watch that government forces stood by while members from each community attacked the other, razing villages and committing an unknown number of killings.

“Burmese security forces failed to protect the Arakan and Rohingya from each other and then unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government claims it is committed to ending ethnic strife and abuse, but recent events in Arakan State demonstrate that state-sponsored persecution and discrimination persist.”

The Burmese government should take urgent measures to end abuses by their forces, ensure humanitarian access, and permit independent international monitors to visit affected areas and investigate abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

The Burmese army’s presence in Sittwe eventually stemmed the violence. However, on June 12, Arakan mobs burned down the homes of up to 10,000 Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims in the city’s largest Muslim neighborhood while the police and paramilitary Lon Thein forces opened fire on Rohingya with live ammunition.

In northern Arakan State, the army, police, Nasaka border guard forces, and Lon Thein paramilitaries have committed killings, mass arrests, and other abuses against Rohingya. They have operated in concert with local Arakan residents to loot food stocks and valuables from Rohingya homes. Nasaka and soldiers have fired upon crowds of Rohingya villagers as they attempted to escape the violence, leaving many dead and wounded.

Since June, the government has detained hundreds of Rohingya men and boys, who remain incommunicado. The authorities in northern Arakan State have a long history of torture and mistreatment of Rohingya detainees, Human Rights Watch said. In the southern coastal town of Moulmein, 82 fleeing Rohingya were reportedly arrested in late June and sentenced to one year in prison for violating immigration laws.

Burma’s new human rights commission – led by chairman Win Mra, an ethnic Arakan – has not played an effective role in monitoring abuses in Arakan State, Human Rights Watch said. In a July 11 assessment of the sectarian violence, the commission reported on no government abuses, claimed all humanitarian needs were being met, and failed to address Rohingya citizenship and persecution.

“The Burmese government needs to urgently amend its citizenship law to end official discrimination against the Rohingya,” Adams said. “President Thein Sein cannot credibly claim to be promoting human rights while calling for the expulsion of people because of their ethnicity and religion.”

The sectarian violence has created urgent humanitarian needs for both Arakan and Rohingya communities, Human Rights Watch said. Local Arakan organizations, largely supported by domestic contributions, have provided food, clothing, medicine, and shelter to displaced Arakan. By contrast, the Rohingya population’s access to markets, food, and work remains dangerous or blocked, and many have been in hiding for weeks.

The government has restricted access to affected areas, particularly Rohingya areas, crippling the humanitarian response. United Nations and humanitarian aid workers have faced arrest as well as threats and intimidation from the local Arakan population, which perceives the aid agencies as biased toward the Rohingya. Government restrictions have made some areas, such as villages south of Maungdaw, inaccessible to humanitarian agencies.

Source: Human Rights Watch

03 Aug 2012   02:00:18 PM   Friday
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