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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs