News / Asia

Report: Rights Abuses Persist Against Burmese Muslims

Rohingya Muslims people rest by the road with their belongings as they move from their village after recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.
Rohingya Muslims people rest by the road with their belongings as they move from their village after recent violence in Sittwe, June 16, 2012.
VOA News
Activists and rights groups say violence continues against Burma's ethnic Muslim minorities, six weeks after a state of emergency was declared in western Rakhine state.

The government says at least 78 people have been killed in the region since late May, when longstanding tensions between the Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas erupted into communal violence.

Amnesty International says the state of emergency imposed June 10 has reduced sectarian clashes in some areas. But the group's Burma researcher Benjamin Zawacki tells VOA attacks against Rohingya Muslims are still on the rise.

"One would have expected by now a net human rights gain in terms of the restoration of order and security and the protection of people's rights. What we've found is that even as communal violence has decreased in much of the state, violence against Muslims generally and ethnic minority Rohingyas specifically has actually increased," he said.

Zawacki says Rohingyas and other Muslims have been subject to attacks - including rape, property destruction, and unlawful killings - by not only Rakhine Buddhists, but also state security services.

He also says hundreds of Muslims are being held incommunicado following mass arrests in Rohingya areas, noting that most are men and young boys who were apparently targeted because of their religion.

"They're being detained on a discriminatory basis and on the grounds of their religious and ethnic affiliation," he explained. "And as such, those detained - in Amnesty's view - constitute political prisoners."

Zawacki says such abuses erode the human rights progress made by Burma in the past year. But he points out that the political reforms brought along by President Thein Sein have done little to improve the situation in Burma's ethnic minority areas.

"This in many ways is simply keeping with what's been the case, not only with respect to the Rohingyas, but in other ethnic minority areas, as well," said Zawacki. "In many ways, the human rights progress made over the past year or so has always been confined to the political and economic centers, and is not extended to the ethnic minority areas."

The situation has reportedly worsened since Burmese President Thein Sein said earlier this month that deportation or refugee camps were the only solutions to the Rohingya crisis - a statement that prompted an outcry by activists.

Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a group that works closely with the Rohingyas, tells VOA there are reports that the president's statements have emboldened those who attack Rohingyas.

"This statement seems to have encouraged Rakhine villagers to actually chase away Rohingyas from different areas,"  Lewa said. "And it seems the local authorities seem to support this."

Up to 90,000 people have been displaced from the unrest in Rakhine, creating a potential humanitarian crisis. But Lewa says it is difficult to tell their condition because Burma is restricting access for aid workers and international monitors.

"On the one hand, international staff seem to have a problem obtaining travel permissions. And on the other hand, there have been threats circulating against the staff of these agencies if they would assist the camps," she said.

State-run media said Friday several government officials visited Rakhine this week to monitor recovery efforts and visit displaced villagers. The New Light of Myanmar said construction was underway on rebuilding houses damaged in the unrest.

The violence has also highlighted attempts by activists to convince Burma to amend or repeal laws denying citizenship to Rohingya Muslims. The Burmese government regards the technically stateless group as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid