World News

    Rights Group: Burma's Rohingya Policies May be 'Crimes Against Humanity'

    A rights group says Burmese authorities are committing crimes against humanity by enforcing discriminatory policies against Rohingya Muslims, tens of thousands of whom have fled the Southeast Asian country.

    Fortify Rights says a series of leaked government documents reveal severe human rights violations against Rohingya in northern 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. 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."



    Accusations of mistreatment of Rohingya are nothing new. The United Nations says they are among the world's most persecuted minority groups. Most are denied citizenship in Burma, also known as Myanmar, where they are widely seen as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh.



    Fortify Rights says the 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" against Rohingya in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

    The policy reflects a concern among some majority Buddhists who say allegedly rapid 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, these views have been shared with senior government officials since the 1990s. 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."



    Rather than taking over, many Muslims are leaving, especially following an outbreak of Buddhist-Muslim violence in Rakhine in 2012 that killed 250 people before spreading to other parts of the country.

    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.

    The government has not commented on the report, but has in the past stressed that its policy toward the Rohingya, which it refers to as "Bengalis," is within the confines of its own laws.

    But Smith says the policies are breaking international law, and wants the international community to support an independent investigation to look into the alleged violations.



    "Pressure needs to come to bear on authorities to end these violations against the Rohingya population. And as long as the international community is placating to the authorities in Myanmar, these abuses are going to continue. There needs to be a comprehensive effort among international actors and among certainly foreign governments engaging with authorities to end these violations."



    Smith says for now, that international effort is falling "terribly short."

    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 are yet to reap the benefits.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora