Security Forces ‘Abusing’ Rohingya

A rights group calls on Burma to address 'systematic discrimination' against the stateless group.

2012.07.20
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rohingya-teknaf-305 Rohingya men who fled ethnic violence in Burma by boat are kept under watch by Bangladeshi officials in Teknaf, June 18, 2012.
AFP

Burma’s security forces are committing more rights abuses against the Rohingya minority in the wake of ethnic violence in Rakhine state, a global rights group said, urging the government to repeal emergency rule in the area.

Burma’s Border Security Forces have arrested hundreds of Rohingya in massive sweeps that mostly appear to have been “arbitrary and discriminatory,” Amnesty International said in a statement Thursday.

"Six weeks after a state of emergency was declared in Myanmar’s [Burma’s] Rakhine State, targeted attacks and other violations by security forces against minority Rohingyas and other Muslims have increased,” it said.

The group did not specify the period during which the increased abuses occurred but claimed there were credible reports of other human rights abuses committed by security forces including physical abuse, rape, destruction of property, and unlawful killings.

It urged Burma to end the emergency rule, which remains in effect in some areas since it was declared across Rakhine state on June 10, at the “earliest opportunity.”

“Declaring a state of emergency is not a license to commit human rights violations,” the group’s Burma researcher Benjamin Zawacki said.

“It is the duty of security forces to defend the rights of everyone—without exception or discrimination—from abuses by others, while abiding by human rights standards themselves.”

Ongoing violence

Six weeks after the state of emergency was declared, communal violence is continuing in the region, Amnesty said.

“The widespread violence in at least eight areas that began on 8 June has reduced considerably, but human rights abuses continue to take place among the Buddhist Rakhine, Muslim Rakhine, and Muslim Rohingya communities, as well as by state security forces,” the group said.

Since the ethnic violence broke out between ethnic Rakhines and Rohingya in early June, at least 50 people have died and 30,000 have been displaced, according to official figures, though the U.N. refugee agency has put the number of displaced three times higher.

Amnesty urged the Burmese government to allow humanitarian workers unfettered access to the region, recommending that international observers, possibly from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, be permitted to monitor the area.

Burma should investigate the communal strife and its “underlying causes” thoroughly and impartially, the group said, warning that returning to the status quo that existed before the recent violence broke out would not be enough to address decades of “systematic discrimination” against the Rohingya.

Overseas

Some 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma, where they are considered outsiders despite many of them having lived there for generations.

Burmese President Thein Sein had requested that the U.N.’s refugee agency this week place Rohingyas in refugee camps or send them out of the country, saying the ethnic minority is made up of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and that Burma “cannot accept them.”

His request was immediately refused by the U.N. agency.

Bangladesh, where an estimated 300,000 Rohingyas live, has turned back boatloads of the oppressed group arriving on its shores since the outbreak of the unrest.

The plight of the Rohingya, whom the U.N. considers one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, has sparked protests among fellow Muslims in Asia in recent weeks.

On Thursday, an Indian Islamic organization staged a demonstration against abuses against the Rohingya in Hyderabad, the Times of India reported.

In Indonesia, hundreds of Indonesian Islamic hard-liners demonstrated in front of the Burmese embassy in Jakarta last week, vowing a holy war against perpetrators of “genocide” against the Rohingya.

On Sunday, the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the violence against the Rohingya and state policies toward them. OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called on Burma to allow Rohingyas to “return to their homeland in honor, safety, and dignity.”

Reported by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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