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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
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 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