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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs