News / Asia

Burma Rejects Allegations of Oppressive Rohingya Policies

FILE - An internally displaced Rohingya woman holds her newborn baby surrounded by children in the foreground of makeshift tents at a camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma.
FILE - An internally displaced Rohingya woman holds her newborn baby surrounded by children in the foreground of makeshift tents at a camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is rejecting allegations by a rights group that the government is committing crimes against humanity by enforcing discriminatory policies against Rohingya Muslims, tens of thousands of whom have fled the Southeast Asian country.

Government spokesman Ye Htut Tuesday accused the group, called Fortify Rights, of lobbying on behalf of the Rohingya, which the Burmese government calls Bengali.

"The facts in this report have no validity and the allegations are one-sided so we totally reject them," the spokesman said.  "We have allowed international fact-finding missions, including from the U.N., to visit certain areas in Burma , including the Rakhine State. None of them have accused us of committing such crimes. So, a Thai-based rights group believing the facts provided to them by the Bengalis and publishing a report , is considered a laughing matter." 

Fortify Rights says a series of leaked government documents reveal severe human rights violations against Rohingya in western Rakhine state, including restrictions on freedom of movement, marriage, and childbirth.

Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, tells VOA the leaked documents and a review of public records show the government's "active role" in both planning and implementing these abuses.

"What we're saying essentially is that we've got enough evidence to make an allegation that state and central government authorities are implicated in the crime against humanity of persecution," Smith said. "The Rohingya have been singled out because they are Rohingya. We've documented how these abuses are both widespread and systematic, and we've also demonstrated a certain level of knowledge, which is required under the Rome Statute which lays out the element of crimes against humanity."

Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Rakhine state in 2012 and has since spread to other parts of the country. The sectarian fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya. Many Rohingya have since fled the country.

Fortify Rights says the government's policies "appear to be designed to make life so intolerable for Rohingya that they will leave the country." In a report released Tuesday, it described how aspects of everyday life are restricted.

The group said it obtained a regional order that lays the foundation for a policy that "in practice translates to a strict two-child policy" for Rohingya in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

The policy reflects a concern among some majority Buddhists who say birthrates among Muslims, who make up just four percent of the population, and "dangerous" Islamic religious ideals threaten their way of life.

Smith calls such fears "deeply unreasonable," and says they are spreading in part because of the statements of top government officials.

"In the documents we've uncovered, we realized these views have been shared with senior government officials since the 1990s," Smith said. "They've been saying the same thing about an 'explosive' population growth of Muslims that they need to control. And they've been making these allegations without any empirical footing whatsoever."

Rohingya freedom to move within the country also is tightly restricted. Fortify Rights says Rohingya in Rakhine are barred from traveling between townships without authorization and are only allowed to travel outside the state in rare cases.

The group said those who break the rules are subject to several years in prison or fines.

Western governments, including the United States, have begun relaxing sanctions against and re-engaging with Burmese leaders since 2011, when the military handed power to a nominally civilian government.

The new military-dominated government has since overseen a series of political and economic reforms, but many say the country's ethnic minorities have yet to reap the benefits.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: lstmohican from: USA
February 26, 2014 9:50 AM
The Human Rights issue is a noble purpose to pursue, but if misled conscientiously or unconscientiously it might just be the opposite….How prejudicial is the resolution of the world organization, but what is more reprehensible is a set of parochial reports by the human rights organizations predisposed to anti-Myanmar agenda….the Islamist separatist Bengalis were economic immigrants from what is now Bangladesh, who fought against the Myanmar national army flying Pakistan flag, or the fact that the Bengalis looked always towards their Muslim brothers abroad, al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives inclusive, consolidating the Islamic solidarity.

They have thus become a menace to the national security of Myanmar. ….Myanmar would not be intimidated or blackmailed. Any measure under foreign pressure could prove counter-productive. Myanmar cannot be pressured to accept the demand for carte blanche citizenship of illegal Bengali immigrants. No country in the world even the United States, an immigrant nation and supposedly the most democratic society, welcomes just anybody who makes it across the border, grants unrestricted mass immigration or unscreened citizenship, let alone to recognize them as a national race with the constitutional rights to a political entity in the Union and a separate state within its territory….”

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More