News / Asia

HRW Accuses Burma of Ethnic Cleansing

This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
This picture taken on October 10, 2012 shows an elderly Muslim Rohingya man pictured outside his tent at the Dabang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, located on the outskirts of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine state.
Daniel Schearf
Human Rights Watch says Burma's government and local authorities engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

In a 156-page report released Monday in Bangkok, the group says authorities actively sought to displace Rohingyas in western Rakhine state following sectarian violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims.

Matthew Smith is a Burma researcher with Human Rights Watch.  He said officials and security allowed extremist politicians and monks to incite anti-Muslim rumors in Rakhine state, also known as Arakan. He says they then did little to stop the bloodshed.

"Not only did they fail to intervene, but government security forces and authorities destroyed mosques, effectively blocked humanitarian aid to Rohingya populations and at times acted alongside Arakanese to forcibly displace Muslims," he said. "Security forces raided Muslim homes and villages, at times shooting at villagers, looting homes and businesses, rounding up people of all ages, including teenagers and children as young as eight years old."

The report, titled "All You Can Do is Pray", is based on interviews with more than 100 Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists, many of them eyewitnesses.

Some of the worst incidents include a massacre of 70 Rohingya on October 23, 2012 in Yan Thei village.  Despite advanced warning of an attack, security disarmed the Rohingya of sticks and other simple weapons and then failed to protect them from Buddhist mobs.  Among them were 28 children hacked to death, half of them less than five years old.

According to official figures, the total death toll from two rounds of clashes in June and October was about 200 people with more than 100,000 left homeless - the vast majority of them Rohingya Muslims.

But, Human Rights Watch says it uncovered evidence of at least four mass graves created or overseen by local security, raising concerns that the death toll could be higher.

Phil Robertson is deputy Asia director for the New York-based group.  He said it is calling for an independent international investigation and for authorities to be held responsible.

"There are no indications that the government has seriously investigated or attempted to hold accountable those responsible for planning, organizing or participating in the violence," he said.  "Government security forces either did nothing to stop the violence or participated in it."  

A Burma government spokesman was not immediately available to respond to the accusations, but authorities have in the past strongly denied security forces participated in attacks.  Officials claim they were simply overwhelmed by mob violence and have downplayed the attacks as communal rather than largely one-sided against Muslims.

The report comes as the European Union is meeting to discuss lifting economic sanctions against Burma.  The EU and others, including the United States, suspended sanctions last year to reward Burma's democratic reforms.  

Robertson said it is too early to lift sanctions as benchmarks for progress have not been met and it would diminish the EU's leverage.

"Essentially, in our view, the EU member countries are ditching measures that have motivated the current progress on human rights and gambling on the goodwill of Burma's government and military to keep their word to keep reforms on track," he added.

The Rohingya are not recognized as citizens in Burma and are considered by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.  Thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma in overcrowded wooden boats that wash up in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, while hundreds more have drowned in attempt to flee after last year's violence.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is visiting Burma this week.

Robertson says Burma's neighbors have a particular responsibility on the Rohingya issue.

"We think that the president of Indonesia and the prime minister of Malaysia, and other countries which are receiving significant numbers of Rohingya coming by boats, have an important role to play in engaging with Burma and telling Burma that this is unacceptable, that these people are citizens of Burma," explained Robertson.  "They must be considered as such and that, for Burma to continue to pursue policies that encourage people to flee on rickety boats onto the oceans and land in neighboring countries, is unacceptable."

Leaders of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations are meeting for a summit in Brunei this week but, because they only act on consensus, they are not expected to discuss the issue.

Robertson says ASEAN has been virtually silent on the Rohingya issue and urged the group to reconsider whether Burma is still an appropriate host for the ASEAN summits in 2014.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Freddy
April 22, 2013 10:52 AM
One could also ask how many pages were ever compiled by HRW on Zimbabwe, during the early eighties when 20,000 people lost their lives, let alone the UN. Many such issues are diplomatically condoned and "swept under the carpet". Sad but true

by: lstmohican from: USA
April 22, 2013 7:48 AM
The human rights report released on April 19, 2013 by the US Department of State did not find any such problem and said Myanmar made progress on its human rights. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other international organizations are being used as a mouth piece by Saudi Arabia and the muslim countries with vast petro dollars in a consorted propaganda campaign to annex Myanmar, now a predominantly Buddhist nation, into a muslim Sharia state. This conspiracy to create independent “Newrosia” state was revealed in several investigative reports from neighboring Bangladesh, a muslim country. (Search internet using keywords SCRIBD.COM NEWROSIA CONSPIRACY TERRORISTS).

Buddhism that was once a predominant religion in countries as far as Afghanistan, Maldives, India, Indonesia have completely disappeared due to relentless attacks by Islamic forces and the pacifist nature of Buddhism. As in the case of Nalanda, a Buddhist university in India which was attacked and destroyed by Turkish Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji. Instead of taking arms or conversion to Islam, the Buddhist opted to be slain by the invaders. Let history not repeat itself again. It is time for predominantly Buddhist nations (starting with Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Mongolia) to form an international organization such as ORGANIZATION OF BUDDHIST NATIONS (OBN) not only to counter the threat from Muslim fundamentalism and other forms of terrorism but also to have a united voice in world affairs.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs