Thursday, July 5, 2012

Myanmar's Rohingya suffer state-backed abuses - report

A group of Rohingyas living in Thailand and other Muslims gathered outside Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok in a protest demanding security for Myanmar's Rohingya people, June 21, 2012. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Evidence suggests Myanmar’s military has participated in abuses against stateless Muslim Rohingyas following June’s communal violence in western Myanmar, a report from a rights group said this week.

Burning Homes, Sinking Lives by the UK-based Equal Rights Trust (ERT), based on more than 50 interviews with Rohingyas between June 13 and 29, also criticised Bangladesh for refusing entry to many who fled the violence.

Rakhine State experienced days of sectarian violence last month following the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist Rakhine woman and an apparent vigilante killing of 10 Muslims unconnected with the first case.

The violence underlines the big challenges facing Myanmar's first civilian government, which took power in March 2011, ending half a century of authoritarian military rule.

The report said information collected by the ERT and others appears to show that serious and widespread abuses are taking place against Rohingyas in Myanmar.

“At best, the state may be unable or unwilling to take control of the situation and stop such violations,” it said.

“At worst – and what appears to be most likely on the basis of the available evidence – both state and non-state actors have been responsible for human rights abuses which have been carried out in an organised and a systematic manner,” the report added.

Rights groups say the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, face some of the worst discrimination in the world. They were deprived of free movement, education and employment under the country's former military rulers - a situation that continues today.

They are also denied Myanmar citizenship and considered illegal immigrants. Bangladesh refuses to recognise them as citizens too.

'KILLINGS AND ARRESTS'

According to the ERT, the violence against Rohingyas worsened after the government declared a state of emergency on June 10 and the United Nations withdrew from the area, leaving no international observers on the ground.

“From June 16 onwards, the military became more actively involved in committing acts of violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya including killings and mass-scale arrests of Rohingya men and boys in North Rakhine State,” the report said.

“This has caused an increased proportion of men and boys to flee the country, resulting in increased incidences of rape of the women left behind, committed by Myanmar security personnel,” it added.

The report also said displaced Rohingyas have not received sufficient humanitarian assistance from the state.

Across the border in Bangladesh, fleeing Rohingyas were turned back “despite the pleas... that they would be killed if returned, as well as the extremely unsafe condition of some of their boats”, violating international refugee and human rights laws, it said.

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