VIOLENCE AGAINST THE ROHINGYA
Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority have been the main victims of the sectarian clashes in the state of Rakhine. As of early 2014, up to 280 people had been killed and 140,000 had their homes destroyed, most of them Rohingya. Tens of thousands more have fled their homes, again most of them Rohingya. The Royingya are especially vulnerable as about 800,000 of them have been deprived of citizenship rights due to discriminatory policies.
Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times, “Though there have been attacks on other Muslim groups elsewhere in Myanmar in the past two years, the animosity toward the Rohingya is especially combustible. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014]
“Ethnic Cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims
In April 2013, Human Rights Watch reported: “Burmese authorities and members of Arakanese groups have committed crimes against humanity in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State since June 2012...The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement. The government needs to put an immediate stop to the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable or it will be responsible for further violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the country. [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013 /\]
The 153-page report, “‘All You Can Do is Pray’: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State,” describes the role of the Burmese government and local authorities in the forcible displacement of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims and the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Burmese officials, community leaders, and Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population. The tens of thousands of displaced have been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home. /\
Following sectarian violence between Arakanese and Rohingya in June 2012, government authorities destroyed mosques, conducted violent mass arrests, and blocked aid to displaced Muslims. On October 23, after months of meetings and public statements promoting ethnic cleansing, Arakanese mobs attacked Muslim communities in nine townships, razing villages and killing residents while security forces stood aside or assisted the assailants. Some of the dead were buried in mass graves, further impeding accountability. /\
Human Rights Watch traveled to Arakan State following the waves of violence and abuses in June and October, visiting sites of attacks and every major displaced person camp, as well as unofficial displacement sites. The report draws on more than 100 interviews with Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese who suffered or witnessed abuses, as well as some organizers and perpetrators of the violence. /\
All of the state security forces operating in Arakan State are implicated in failing to prevent atrocities or directly participating in them, including local police, Lon Thein riot police, the inter-agency border control force called Nasaka, and the army and navy. One soldier told a Muslim man who was pleading for protection as his village was being burned: “The only thing you can do is pray to save your lives.” Displaced Rohingya told Human Rights Watch how in October security forces stood by or joined with large groups of Arakanese men armed with machetes, swords, homemade guns, and Molotov cocktails who descended upon and attacked their villages. In some cases, attacks occurred simultaneously in townships separated by considerable distance. Satellite images obtained by Human Rights Watch from just 5 of the 13 townships that experienced violence since June show 27 unique zones of destruction, including the destruction of 4,862 structures covering 348 acres of mostly Muslim-owned residential property. /\
Rohingya Violence in June 2012
In 2012, violence and riots broke out between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic (mostly Buddhist) Rakhine in northern Rakhine State. At least 78 were killed and thousands of houses were burnt on both sides. Whole villages were "decimated". The government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. The June violence displaced 75,000 people — mostly Muslims.
According to Tun Khin, the President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) 650 Rohingyas had been killed, 1,200 were missing, and more than 80,000 have been displaced. According to the Myanmar authorities, the violence, between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, left 78 people dead, 87 injured, and thousands of homes destroyed. It also displaced more than 52,000 people.
The anti-Rohingya violence in June, some of it committed by Buddhist mobs and some by Buddhist-dominated security forces, led to scores of deaths, the burning of settlements and a refugee exodus of 90,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh. There, up to 300,000 Rohingya refugees still languish in makeshift camps from the anti-Rohingya pogrom in the early 1990s. Bangladesh shut its borders to any more Rohingyas, and in early August barred international NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders from providing any more aid, which these groups have been doing since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported in late July that the Rohingya who remained in Rakhine, where the government imposed a state of emergency in June, were subject to arbitrary mass arrests, as well as abuse in custody. A U.N. special rapporteur echoed that finding, citing "serious violations of human rights committed as part of measures to restore law and order."
This violence broke out quickly and included attacks on non-Rohingya Muslim communities such as the Kaman, one of the country’s 135 officially- recognized national races. The Rohingya, unlike the Kaman, are not recognized as an ethnic nationality and with an estimated population of 800,000 inside Burma,they are the world’s largest stateless population. Hatred of, and discrimination against, the Rohingya are widespread, with little public support to recognize them as an ethnic nationality. The central government played a key role in stemming the violence in June and October 2012, although local Rakhine security forces were often cited as contributing to if not inciting violence. [Source: U.S. State Department, Human Rights in Burma, February 18, 2013]
The riots came after weeks of sectarian disputes. The cause appeared to be the killing of ten Burmese Muslims by ethnic Rakhine after the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman. Severe government restrictions places on the Rohingya and animosity between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar is believed to have fueled violence Human Rights Watch reported: “State security forces failed to intervene to stop the sectarian violence at key moments, including the massacre of 10 Muslim travelers in Toungop that was one of several events that precipitated the outbreak. State media published incendiary anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim accounts of the events, fueling discrimination and hate speech in print media and online across the country.
Buddhist Vigilantes Kill Muslims in Revenge for the Rape-Murder of a Buddhist Woman
The anti-Rohingya violence in 2012 began in June when Buddhist vigilantes avenging the rape and death of a Buddhist woman in the western Myanmar attacked a bus and killed 10 Muslims. Aung Hla Tun of Reuters wrote; “The bus was besieged near Taunggoke town in the western state of Rakhine by a group who blamed some of its passengers for the murder of a Buddhist woman a week ago, said residents and politicians. One of those killed was travelling in a separate car. Ko Kyaw Lay, a Muslim human rights activist in the region who belongs to an opposition party, said none of those killed were Rohingyas. In a separate incident the same day in Sittwe, the Rakhine capital, 10 people were shot and wounded when riot police tried to break up a protest, witnesses said. They said the rally by about 200 people was unrelated to the attack on the bus. [Source: Aung Hla Tun, Reuters, June 04, 2012]
Lucile Andre of AFP wrote: “The trigger for the latest surge in sectarian tensions was the rape and murder of a woman in western Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh, for which three Muslim men have been detained, according to state media. On Sunday a mob of hundreds of people attacked a bus, believing the perpetrators were on board, and beat 10 Muslims to death. "These innocent people have been killed like animals," said Abu Tahay, of the National Democratic Party for Development, which represents the country's much-persecuted stateless Muslim Rohingya community. "If the police cannot control the situation, maybe the (unrest) is going to spread," he said, adding that the biggest fear was for Rakhine state, where there is a large Muslim minority population including the Rohingya. [Source: Lucile Andre, AFP, June 5, 2012 +]
“In Yangon, dozens of Muslims protested calling for justice. The authorities warned against "anarchic acts" after the mob killings and an attack on a police station by an angry crowd in Sittwe. Protesters threw stones at police and a 13-year-old novice monk was among those wounded, witnesses said. +
“In the case of the bus attack, Taunggoke resident Kyaw Min said the Buddhists "were angered by the authorities' handling" of an attack on a woman who people in the area said was raped by several men and then killed. Just before Sunday's attack, leaflets bearing a photo of the woman and describing the rape were distributed in the area. Several residents said the Muslims on the bus were not from the area and were on a visit to Rakhine state. They suggested those killed may not have been the perpetrators of the reported rape and murder. +
“In a joint statement, eight overseas-based Rohingya rights groups condemned the attack on "Muslim pilgrims", which they said came after months of anti-Rohingya propaganda stirred up by "extremists and xenophobes". A spokesman for the coalition, Tun Khin, said that although those killed were not ethnic Rohingyas, the groups were concerned about the plight of Muslims in Myanmar. They called on the government to treat Muslims fairly and tackle "Rakhine terrorism". +
“Residents were also on edge after the Sittwe demonstration. Shopkeeper Thein Kyaw said the protest erupted outside a police station after hired thugs attacked and detained business operators who refused to pay over-inflated taxes. Demonstrations were extremely rare under Myanmar's former military rulers but are becoming more frequent as the public voices discontent over issues such as land ownership and chronic power shortages, which led to peaceful marches by hundreds of people in several towns and cities. +
Riots, Torched Houses and Planeloads Of Soldiers in Rakhine State
In mid June 2012, Reuters reported: “Northwest Myanmar was tense after sectarian violence engulfed its largest city at the weekend, with Reuters witnessing rival mobs of Muslims and Buddhists torching houses and police firing into the air to disperse crowds. At least eight people were killed and many wounded, authorities say, in the worst communal violence since a reformist government replaced a junta and vowed to forge unity in one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries. [Source: Reuters, June 11, 2012 <>]
“The fighting erupted in the Rakhine State town of Maungdaw, but has spread to the capital Sittwe and nearby villages, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency late and impose a dawn-to-dusk curfew. Foreign aid workers have begun pulling out, aid sources said. Plumes of black smoke rose over parts of Sittwe, a port town of mainly wooden houses where Buddhists and Muslims have long lived in uneasy proximity. Some Buddhists were seen carrying bamboo stakes and other makeshift weapons. "We have now ordered troops to protect the airport and the Rakhine villages under attack in Sittwe," Zaw Htay, director of the President's Office, told Reuters. "Arrangements are under way to impose a curfew in some other towns." <>
"Vengeance and anarchy" could spread beyond Rakhine State and jeopardise the country's transition to democracy, Thein Sein warned in a hastily arranged televised address. The authorities have blamed Rohingya mobs for the violence. Witnesses from Maungdaw described Rohingya attacking Buddhist homes. "It's just like a living hell. I wonder how long we will have to live like this?" said Mya Khin, a housewife. Rohingya activists and residents accuse ethnic Rakhine of terrorising their communities. Witnesses in Sittwe said homes were torched in at least four places. <>
“By the end of the weekend, tensions appeared to be spreading. State-run MRTV announced curfews in three other Rakhine towns, including Thandwe, the gateway to Myanmar's tourist beaches, and Kyaukphyu, where China is building a giant port complex. Reuters saw residents of a mainly Rakhine village near Sittwe on Sunday set ablaze houses they said were Muslim-owned. "We are burning Rohingya houses because they live near our village and they gather at night and try to attack us," said an unidentified ethnic Rakhine man. <>
“Planeloads of soldiers arrived in Sittwe but locals said the security forces were ineffectual. "A Rohingya mob just set fire to some Rakhine houses just behind Infantry Battalion 357. The soldiers just watched, without doing anything," one local said. An elderly Muslim man living with his family reported that Buddhist vigilantes armed with "swords and sticks" were roaming the streets on motorbikes. "The security forces are helping them destroy Muslim houses," the man, a retired government official who also requested anonymity, said by telephone from his house near Sittwe airport. A gang of Buddhists tried to burn his house down, but were dissuaded with help from a Buddhist neighbour, he said. <>
“Reuters also saw Muslims setting alight houses and Buddhists preparing to defend their communities with sharpened bamboo stakes, machetes and sling-shots. Among the dead were an elderly man and a doctor, both Buddhists, who suffered multiple stab wounds. The authorities said hundreds of Rohingya went on the rampage in Maungdaw, where around 500 buildings were said to have been destroyed, and a nighttime curfew was imposed. <>
“State media said three men had gone on trial for the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman blamed for triggering the riots. Police and soldiers successfully restored "peace and stability" to Muangdaw and neighbouring Buthidaung district, the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported. One woman died after police confronted rioters at a Maungdaw market, it said without elaborating. In its editorial, the usually staid newspaper made an impassioned plea for calm, warning that "democracy cannot flourish" where there is "anarchy, stagnation and lawlessness". <>
After the Rohingya Violence in June 2012
The government responded to the violence in June 2012 by imposing curfews and by deploying troops in the regions. On June 10, state of emergency was declared in Rakhine, allowing military to participate in administration of the region. The Burmese army and police were accused of targeting Rohingya Muslims through mass arrests and arbitrary violence. A number of monks' organizations that played vital role in Burma's struggle for democracy have taken measures to block any humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community. According to The Times five mosques in Sittwe, including the 19th century Musa Dewan Mosque, were bulldozed over within two weeks after the violence ended.
Hanna Hindstrom wrote in Foreign Policy, “A politician from the military-backed USDP party called for a "King Dragon Operation" -- a 1978 military operation run by dictator Ne Win to stamp out the Rohingya population from Northern Arakan state. Meanwhile, reports of army complicity in attacks on Muslim homes are growing after a state of emergency was declared. Immigration minister Khin Yi has again reiterated that "there are no Rohingya in Burma," while Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy continues to carefully sidestep the hot-button issue. State media has also fanned tensions by using the racial slur kalar in their official appeal for calm. [Source: Hanna Hindstrom, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012 <<]
After the violence in June, many aid groups were not allowed to provide assistance until August. AFP reported: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Saturday announced it has received a green light from Myanmar to assist Muslim Rohingya displaced by sectarian violence. It said Myanmar gave its agreement to the OIC following talks in Rangoon on Friday between a delegation from the pan-Islamic body and President Thein Sein on the “deplorable humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.” The delegation assured Thein Sein that Islamic humanitarian organisations were willing to provide aid to all residents of the strife-torn state. In October 2012, the Myanmar government said it would not allow the OIC to set up a liason office in Myanmar. [Source: AFP, August 11, 2012]
Rohingya Violence in October 2012
A second round of violence which began in late October 2012, left at least 112 dead and 129 injured. More than 2,000 homes were burnt down. According to Human Rights Watch: Violence erupted again in late October in 9 of the state’s 17 townships, with coordinated violence and arson attacks by Arakanese against Rohingya and Kaman Muslims—a government-recognized nationality group, unlike the Rohingya. In some cases violence was carried out with the support and direct involvement of state security forces and local officials, including killings, beatings, and burning of Muslim villages, displacing an additional 35,000 Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims.
Reuters reported: “Severe violence broke out between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines in Kyaukpyu, a town located about 120 kilometers south of the Rakhine State capital Sittwe. New York-based Human Rights Watch earlier released before-and-after satellite images showing the near total devastation of the Kyaukpyu's Muslim quarter. More than 811 buildings and houseboats were destroyed according to Human Rights Watch's analysis of satellite imagery. [Source: Reuters, October 28, 2012 ><]
“The United Nations said the violence hit eight townships or districts, destroying 4,600 homes, and brought the total number of displaced people to 22,587. The Myanmar government estimated nearly 3,000 homes had been destroyed across in Rakhine State between October 21 and October 27, when state television said that 84 people had been killed, but rights groups say the casualties are likely far higher. The coastal town of Kyaukpyu is crucial to China's most strategic investment in Myanmar: twin pipelines that will carry oil and natural gas from the Bay of Bengal to China's energy-hungry western provinces. The riots were a test the reformist, quasi-civilian government that replaced Myanmar's oppressive ruling junta in 2011. ><
AFP reported: “Thousands of homes have been destroyed in the latest wave of arson. A Rakhine official said violence flared again in the Pauktaw area, one of around eight affected townships Most of those made homeless have remained near their villages, according to the UN, raising concerns about getting aid to remote areas. "It is mainly the Muslims who have been displaced," the UN's chief in Yangon, Ashok Nigam, told AFP. Nigam, who had just returned from a visit to affected areas, said the U.N. was concerned both about the potential for a further spread of violence and the difficulty of reaching the displaced in remote areas. [Source: AFP, October 28, 2012 ~]
“In Minbya township a senior police official told AFP that more than 4,000 victims, mainly Muslims, had seen their homes torched. Many were staying in tents near their incinerated properties. The official said a heightened security presence had prevented further clashes. "They are staying between Muslims and Rakhine people," he said. ~
“Zaw Htay, an official from the office of President Thein Sein, said that under a state of emergency imposed after the June unrest, security had been tightened across Rakhine state. But the new violence had "occurred in unexpected areas", he said. Human Rights Watch released satellite images showing "extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area" of Kyaukpyu -- the site of a major pipeline taking gas to China. The images show a stark contrast between the coastal area as seen in March this year, packed with hundreds of dwellings and fringed with boats. In the aftermath of the latest violence, virtually all structures appear to have been wiped from the landscape. ~
Accounts of Rohingya Violence in October 2012
Those who fled to Sittwe told AFP of their despair and horror. "They torched our houses. My child was killed, my husband as well. That will not change even if I stay. Please kill all of us. It's all I want," said Cho Cho, a Muslim cradling a baby in her arms as she sat among throngs of displaced people on the shore near a camp on the outskirts of the city. The distraught 28-year-old said she was afraid of more attacks. "I do not want to stay in Rakhine State. I really hate it." The displaced described fleeing in panic as attackers came, scattering families and forcing people to escape with nothing. "My father didn't arrive. My sons didn't arrive," 40-year-old Mar Nu told AFP, saying she was still dizzy from the terror of the flight by boat. [Source: AFP, October 28, 2012]
Reuters reported: “Muslim survivors of six days of sectarian violence in western Myanmar spoke of fleeing bullets and burning homes to escape on fishing boats after an attack by once-peaceable Rakhine neighbours. "We were told to stay in our homes but then they were set on fire," said Ashra Banu, 33, a mother of four who fled Kyaukpyu after its Muslim quarter was razed on October 24. "When we ran out people were being shot at by Rakhines and police," she said. "We couldn't put out the fires. We just tried to run."[Source: Reuters, October 28, 2012 ><]
"The Rakhines came to attack us with knives. They set fire to our homes, even though we have nothing there for them. I left with only the clothes I am wearing," wept a 63-year-old woman who said her name was Zomillah, as she sat on a crowded space in Te Chaung camp. "I can't go back." Abdul Awal, 30, said police stood by as Rakhines burned their homes. "The Rakhines beat us, and the police shot at us. We ran to the sea and they followed us, beating us and shooting at us," he said. "I have to start a new life now." ><
A Buddhist Rakhine in Kyaukpyu tells a different story. Contacted by telephone by Reuters, he said Rakhines and Muslims had fought each other with knives, swords, sticks and slingshots. Overwhelmed, the Muslims then "set fire to their own houses as a last resort and ran away," he said. The resident estimates 80 to 100 Muslim boats left Kyaukpyu that day. "I saw many people killed," said Noru Hussein, 54, another ex-resident of Kyaukpyu. "We didn't fight back. How could we? We live in a place surrounded by Rakhine villages. We just fled to the beach and escaped by boat." ><
Massacre in Yan Thei village in Mrauk-U Township
Human Rights Watch reported: “In the deadliest incident, on October 23, at least 70 Rohingya were killed in a daylong massacre in Yan Thei village in Mrauk-U Township. Despite advance warning of the attack, only a small number of riot police, local police, and army soldiers were on duty to provide security, but they assisted the killings by disarming the Rohingya of their sticks and other rudimentary weapons they carried to defend themselves. Included in the death toll were 28 children who were hacked to death, including 13 under age 5. “First the soldiers told us, ‘Do not do anything, we will protect you, we will save you,’ so we trusted them,” a 25-year-old survivor told Human Rights Watch. “But later they broke that promise. The Arakanese beat and killed us very easily. The security did not protect us from them.” [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013]
Kenneth Denby wrote in The Times, “By the time the Buddhists came at them, Jawmi and her baby had become separated from the rest of the family and all she could do was run. The ground was rough and pitted, and a yard-wide ditch lay in their path. As the other villagers leaped across, Jawmi slipped and the 18-month-old baby fell from her arms. The girl, named Guzar Bibi, could already say Mamma and Dadda, but she walked with a lurching toddle and could never have climbed out of a ditch on her own. One of the Buddhist men grabbed the screaming child; he was carrying a two-footlong blade. Jawmi stumbled on and was only dimly aware of what happened next.But when she returned later, she found the little girl dead and bleeding on the ground. Thirty other corpses lay close at hand in the burned-out village of Yin Thei. Near the cinders of the village market another 20 lay, among them two more of Jawmi’s eight children. [Source: Kenneth Denby, The Times, November 24 2012 >>]
“Of the Rohingya who died that day in late October, 10 were men, 22 women and girls, and 28 children — 13 of them younger than six. Others survived with terrible wounds from the swords, knives, spears and homemade guns the attackers carried, as well as so-called jinglees — barbed iron darts fired from a sling. It was the worst mass killing so far in a simmering campaign of violence by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists against stateless Rohingya Muslims. But most shockingly of all, it was overwhelmingly women, young children and babies who were the victims. “Most of us got away, into the village, but there were too many people and the old, and mothers with children, couldn’t run fast,” says the village headman, who presents a detailed list of the dead and injured. “They didn’t distinguish between men, women, the elderly; children. The youngest of them was just a few months old.” Rumours about what happened at Yin Thei have circulated ever since the attack on October 23, and journalists and human rights workers have been trying and failing to get into the village, which is guarded by nervous police. >>
“Until October 23, according to people there, the 2,450 Rohingya of Yin Thei lived peacefully alongside the few dozen Rakhine Buddhist neighbours with whom they shared their village. At dawn that morning, after a day of ethnic attacks in other parts of the Mrauk-U district, a large mob of Rakhine men descended on Yin Thei from a Buddhist village a few miles away. Witnesses estimate their numbers at between 2,000 and 4,000; using petrol, they set alight the flimsy wood and bamboo houses in the village. The handful of police and soldiers in the village fired above the heads of the attackers and, when this had no effect, fled. >>
“One 55-year-old man, Ma Tamin, was killed as he tried to save his house; the rest of the Rohingya retreated to an open area between the village school and cemetery. For eight hours, they watched as the village’s 350 houses were systematically burned down. Then, at about 3.30 in the afternoon, the Rakhine mob charged at them from behind. >>
“Multiple witnesses described fleeing back into the burning village, then looking behind to see scenes of appalling terror and cruelty as Rakhine men hacked at the screaming stragglers with knives, swords and spears. Those who fled to the nearby market ran into another mob of killers coming from another direction. A 20-year-old woman named Nur Bakon was running with her 8-month-old daughter, Sarjida. “They hit her with a sword, and she dropped the child, and they killed her,” says the mother of the young woman, who sits in her tent, trembling in pain from the deep wound on her right wrist. “She saw it with her own eyes.” Like other witnesses to the massacre, Nur Bakon named the killer of her baby, and another man who stabbed her in the back with a spear as she ran away, as Rakhine neighbours from her own village. >>
“Like seven other children, Baby Sarjida’s body was never recovered; the villagers assume that it was thrown into the burning houses and incinerated. Even those who escaped Yin Thei were not spared. One man described hiding in the waters of the village pond. When he came up for air, sling-fired jinglees rained down on him piercing his right eye, which now squints sightlessly. None of the injured has seen a doctor. >>
“The survivors crowd into fewer than 100 tents, living on donated rice and unable to leave their village for fear of further attack. At the best of times, this was a poor remote village of people who expected little of life and frequently got less. Today, it is a place silent with grief. Entire families have been heaped together in 17 fresh graves. One 38-year-old man, Mabu Arlon, crouches sobbing over the mound that covers his wife and his children aged 3 and 2. Asked why this has happened, people shake their heads. “We are not clever enough to say,” answers the village head. “But there is a strong determination to wipe out all the Muslims in the land.” >>
Forces and Groups Behind the Rohingya Violence in October 2012
Peter Shadbolt of CNN wrote: “Human Rights Watch blamed local Buddhist monks and the two-year-old nationalist Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) for encouraging and orchestrating the violence. Between June and October, according to the report, these and other ultra-nationalist groups issued pamphlets and public statements demonizing Rohingyas, at times using the phrase "ethnic cleansing." "During the first wave of violence in June security forces not only stood by and watched as Muslim communities were being attacked but in some cases they directly participated in those attacks," Matthew Smith told CNN from the Bangkok office of HRW. "In the time between June and October (when the second wave of attacks occurred) there was a high degree of public organizing was taking place promoting ethnic cleansing in Arakan state. "Public statements were released by monk's associations, political groups and others and the tensions were rising. The authorities did nothing to intervene, to promote peace and reconciliation, nothing to prevent further violence from occurring." He said the government continues to blame "communal violence" when it knew about the attacks and could have prevented them, adding that authorities were blocking aid to displaced victims. [Source: Peter Shadbolt, CNN, April 22, 2013]
“In October, security forces either looked the other way as Arakanese mobs attacked Muslim settlements or joined in the bloodletting and arson,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said. “The government still blames ‘communal violence’ for the deaths and destruction when, in truth, the government knew what was happening and could have stopped it...Local officials and community leaders engaged in an organized effort to demonize and isolate the Muslim population as a prelude to murderous mob attacks. Moreover, since the bloodshed, the central government has taken no action to punish those responsible or reverse the ethnic cleansing of the forcibly displaced Muslims.” [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013 /\]
According to Human Rights Watch: Considerable local organizing preceded and backed October’s attacks. The two groups most influential in organizing anti-Rohingya activities were the local order of Buddhist monks (the sangha) and the regionally powerful Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which was founded in 2010 by Arakanese nationalists. Between June and October, these groups and others issued numerous anti-Rohingya pamphlets and public statements, explicitly or implicitly denying the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, demonizing them, and calling for their removal from the country, at times using the phrase “ethnic cleansing.” The statements frequently were released in connection with organized meetings and in full view of local, state, and national authorities who raised no concerns. Local authorities, politicians, and monks also acted, often through public statements and force, to deny Muslims their rights to freedom of movement, opportunities to earn a living, and access to markets and to humanitarian aid. The apparent goal has been to coerce them to abandon their homes and leave the area.
Led by Buddhist monks, nationwide protests against the Organisation of Islamic Conference preceded violence in October 2012. Peter Shadbolt of CNN wrote: While Human Rights Watch “acknowledged that local Buddhist Arakanese had also been displaced by the violence, the burden of the humanitarian disaster had fallen on the Rohingya. "Some Arakanese have suffered greatly in this situation," Smith said. "In June, there was violence perpetrated by both Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists although it was there was a much smaller level of displacement among the Arakanese community. "For example, Buddhist monks in Mrauk-U explained to me how at least 16 Arakanese Buddhists had died in the violence in the township." He said that, for the most part, Arakanese Buddhists have resumed life as usual, attending to their fields, going to tea shops and monasteries while Rohingya Muslims are still subject to abuse from security forces and live under an active policy of segregation and containment within the government's camps. [Source: Peter Shadbolt, CNN, April 22, 2013]
Rohingya Violence, Social Media and Freedom to Hate in Myanmar
Hanna Hindstrom wrote in Foreign Policy, “The brutal religious violence in Burma's western Arakan state has cast a shadow on the country's democratic progress....Even more shocking than the violence itself has been the public outpour of vitriol aimed at the Rohingya....Anti-Rohingya views have swept both social and mainstream media, seemingly uniting politicians, human rights activists, journalists, and civil society from across Burma's myriad ethnic groups. "The so-called Rohingya are liars," tweeted one pro-democracy group. "We must kill all the kalar," said another social media user. (Kalar is a racial slur applied to dark-skinned people from the Indian subcontinent.) Burmese refugees, who themselves have fled persecution, gathered at embassies across the world to protest the "terrorist" Rohingya invading their homeland. Even the prominent student leader Ko Ko Gyi, who played a key role in the 1988 democratic uprising, lambasted them as imposters and frauds. [Source: Hanna Hindstrom, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012 <<]
“No doubt Burma's nascent media freedom has played a key role in stirring religious tensions. Vast swathes of inflammatory misinformation are circulating inside Burma -- with mainstream media largely accusing Al Qaeda and "illegal Bengali terrorists" for staging the violence in a bid to spread Islam in Asia. Many allege that the Rohingya are burning their own houses in a bid for attention. One paper published a graphic photo of the corpse of Thida Htwe, the Buddhist woman whose rape and murder allegedly by three Muslim men instigated the violence, prompting President Thein Sein to suspend the publication under Burma's censorship laws. These are the same papers that in recent months have openly criticized the government for the first time since a nominally civilian administration took over last year. <<
“Ironically, this freedom has also led to a virulent backlash against foreign and exile media, who have reported on the plight of the Rohingya -- described by the U.N. as one of the most persecuted groups in the world. A leading national paper, The Weekly Eleven News Journal, has launched a campaign against exile media for their coverage of the crisis. "Foreign media are now presenting bias [sic] reports on the clashes between Rakhine people and Bengali Rohingyas to destroy the image of Myanmar [Burma's official name -- ed.] and its people," warned Eleven Media Group in a statement. "Only Rohingyas killed Rakhine people and burned down their houses." Earlier this week they denounced New York Times reporter Thomas Fuller for citing hateful comments made against Rohingyas on their website. <<
“While anti-Rohingya sentiments are not new to Burma, the attacks have taken on a more urgent and egregious nature with greater access to information. In November last year, a social media campaign whipped up a tirade of animosity against the BBC for a report (published one year earlier) that had identified the Rohingya as residents of Arakan state. In the wake of the latest violence, a number of online campaigns have been set up to coordinate attacks against news outlets that dare to report on their plight. Angry protesters rallied in Rangoon this week, brandishing signs reading "Bengali Broadcast Corporation" and "Desperate Voice of Bengali." The latter was a reference to my employer, the Democratic Voice of Burma, the Norway-based broadcaster that has made a name for itself among many Burmese as one of the most reliable sources of information about their country. This weekend DVB faced the biggest cyber-attack on its website in the organization's history, while its Facebook page is still under constant assault from people issuing threats and posting racist material. It is not without irony that an organization once hailed as a vehicle for free speech has become the target of censorship by the very people it sought to give a voice. <<
“As International Crisis Group explains, the violence is both a consequence of, and threat to, Burma's political transition. However, what they wrongly assume is that the "irresponsible, racist, and inflammatory language" circulating on the internet is likely to be resolved through discussion in the national media. The few balanced voices -- let alone those representing the stateless minority -- are vastly outnumbered by news outlets spouting simplistic, anti-Muslim rhetoric. The ongoing crisis illustrates the need for Burma to embrace not only independent, but also responsible and inclusive journalism. In order to facilitate this transition, the government must take concrete steps to address the underlying dispute surrounding the Rohingya. The sheer level of racism against them in Burmese society -- enforced by a government policy of discrimination and abuse -- lies at the core of the matter. <<
Mass Graves and Myanmar Army Complicity in the 2012 Anti-Rohingya Violence
Human Rights Watch said it “uncovered evidence of four mass-grave sites in Arakan State – three dating from the immediate aftermath of the June violence and one from the October violence. Security forces actively impeded accountability and justice by digging mass graves to destroy evidence of crimes. [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013 /\]
“For instance, on June 13, a government truck dumped 18 naked and half-clothed bodies near a Rohingya displaced person camp outside of Sittwe, the state capital. Some of the victims had been “hogtied” with string or plastic strips before being executed. By leaving the bodies near a camp for displaced Rohingya, the soldiers were sending a message – consistent with a policy of ethnic cleansing – that the Rohingya should leave permanently. “They dropped the bodies right here,” said a Rohingya man, who saw the bodies being dumped. “Three bodies had gunshot wounds. Some had burns, some had stab wounds. One gunshot wound was on the forehead, one on the chest.”/\
Human Rights Watch accused authorities in Myanmar's western Rakhine State of crimes against humanity in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in 2012. Reuters reported: “Security forces were complicit in disarming Rohingya Muslims of makeshift weapons and standing by, or even joining in, as Rakhine Buddhist mobs killed men, women and children in June and October 2012, Human Rights Watch said. "While the state security forces in some instances intervened to prevent violence and protect fleeing Muslims, more frequently they stood aside during attacks or directly supported the assailants, committing killings and other abuses," the report said. [Source: Paul Carsten, Reuters, April 22, 2013]
The failure to investigate properly or punish state officials had emboldened those behind campaigns against Muslims elsewhere, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, referring to violence in central Myanmar that killed more than 43 people in March and displaced at least 12,000. "People are allowed to incite and instigate in a coordinated campaign - this is the lesson taken in by others," Robertson told Reuters. "What happened in Arakan (Rakhine) has helped spark radical anti-Muslim activity."
Refugees Displaced by the 2012 Rohingya Violence
More than 120,000 people —from mainly Muslim communities— fled arson and machete attacks in Rakhine state and thousands embarked on perilous journeys on rickety wooden boats to other countries, where they are prey to human trafficking gangs. In October 2012, AFP reported: The United Nations said an estimated 26,500 -- including 4,000 who fled in boats to the state capital Sittwe -- had been forced from their homes by the fresh violence. This adds to some 75,000 people already crammed into overcrowded camps after unrest in June. [Source: AFP, October 28, 2012]
Reuters reported: “Barefoot Muslim men and women alighted from engine-less fishing boats and climbed the muddy embankment to Te Chaung camp carrying children and what meagre possessions they had salvaged from the inferno. Forty-seven boats carrying 1,945 Rohingya men, women and children have landed at villages near Sittwe in the past few days, said a local official, who requested anonymity. People at Te Chaung said many more boats full of Rohingya had left Kyaukpyu but had yet to reach land. [Source: Reuters, October 28, 2012 ><]
“Te Chaung camp was created after a previous explosion of sectarian violence in June killed more than 80 people and displaced at least 75,000 in the same region. Already squalid and overcrowded, the camp was ill-equipped to cope with more inhabitants. The camp lies on a remote coast at the end of a pot-holed road from Sittwe. Its tents and two-story huts are linked by muddy lanes and guarded by about a dozen unarmed officials. The only obvious aid consists of sacks of rice from the World Food Program. The empty sacks double as sleeping mats. Many people bed down beneath trees. Reuters saw no medical workers. Some of the camp's inhabitants suffer from malaria. The children are naked and often malnourished. ><
“Mohammed Jikeh, 34, a former fishseller, has lived here since the June violence, which he said claimed the lives of 11 relatives. "We have no hope," he said. "We want this violence to stop. We want to live in peace. But like this none of us can survive." "I am gravely concerned by the fear and mistrust that I saw in the eyes of the displaced people," Ashok Nigam, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator said in a statement on his return from a tour of Rakhine State's trouble spots. "The violence, fear and mistrust is contrary to the democratic transition and economic and social development that Myanmar is committed to," he said in a statement. Burmese officials counter that they are protecting Rohingyas from further harm. ><
Government Response to the Humanitarian Crisis After the Rohingya Violence in 2012
A Human Rights Watch report into the Rakhine state violence said, according to to Reuters, “authorities had blocked aid from going into the squalid camps occupied by stateless Rohingya and Kaman Muslims, exposing them to malnourishment and diseases such as cholera or typhoid. Robertson described the segregation of Muslims as "ghettoisation" that left them vulnerable to abuse. [Source: Paul Carsten, Reuters, April 22, 2013]
According to Human Rights Watch: “Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left tens of thousands in dire need of food, adequate shelter, and medical care. The authorities indefinitely suspended nearly all pre-crisis humanitarian aid programs, affecting hundreds of thousands more Rohingya who were otherwise unaffected by the violence and abuse. Local security forces detained hundreds of Rohingya men and boys—primarily in northern Arakan State—and held them incommunicado without basic due process rights. U.N. and international NGO staff were among the arrested and charged.
Human Rights Watch reported: “Arakan State faces a major humanitarian crisis brought on by the Burmese government’s systematic restrictions on humanitarian aid to displaced Rohingya. More than 125,000 Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims, and a smaller number of Arakanese, have been in displaced person camps in Arakan State since June. President Thein Sein’s government has obstructed the effective delivery of humanitarian aid. Many of the displaced Muslims have been living in overcrowded camps that lack adequate food, shelter, water and sanitation, schools, and medical care. Security forces in some areas have provided protection to displaced Muslims, but more typically they have acted as their jailers, preventing access to markets, livelihoods, and humanitarian assistance, for which many are in desperate need. Tens of thousands of Rohingya face a range of deadly waterborne diseases if they are not moved to higher ground before the rainy season begins in May. [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013]
“The problem with aid delivery in Arakan State is not a failure of coordination, but a failure of leadership by the government to allow displaced Muslims access to aid and freedom of movement,” Robertson said. “An entirely predictable and preventable humanitarian crisis is just weeks away when the rains fall and camps flood, spreading waterborne diseases.” The displaced Rohingya have not been consulted on their right to return to their original towns and villages, heightening concerns of a long-term intent to segregate the population.[Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013]
Aftermath of Rohingya Violence in 2012
In April 2013, a wave of anti-Muslim violence took more than 40 additional lives and triggered another surge of refugees. See Muslim Riots
In February 2013, Today’s Zaman said, “news sources reported that many Rohingya women, including teenagers, were subjected to prolonged rape by Burmese security forces in a remote village in the western state of Arakan. Human rights groups have warned that the incident threatens to trigger further violence in the region. [Source: Servet Yanatma, Today’s Zaman, April 14, 2013]
In August 2013, Tomás Ojea Quintana, a U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, said the separation of the two communities "is becoming increasingly permanent, making the restoration of trust difficult", he said. "This continues to have a particularly negative impact on the Muslim community." Reuters reported: “Severe restrictions on freedom of movement for Muslims had "serious consequences" for access to healthcare, education and livelihoods, he said. Access to healthcare was further hampered by local groups intimidating humanitarian workers trying to serve the camps, he said. In Sittwe, the Rakhine State capital, Ojea Quintana visited Aung Mingalar, the last Muslim-dominated quarter remaining after last year's violence. The quarter is locked down by police and soldiers who patrol all streets leading in and out. Muslims can't leave without written permission from Buddhist local authorities, which Muslims told Reuters was almost impossible to secure. [Source: Reuters, August 22, 2013]
Ojea Quintana said he heard many serious allegations of the use of "excessive force" in dealing with Muslim crowds, including a recent incident in which police in Sittwe opened fire with live ammunition to disperse Muslim protesters, killing two people. He said prisons in Sittwe and the northern township of Buthidaung were filled with hundreds of Muslim men and women, many of whom "have been arbitrarily detained and tried in flawed trials". But he said he had received assurances that authorities in Rakhine state had dropped a controversial two-child limit on Rohingya families that sparked international outrage earlier this year.
Myanmar Police Kill Three Rohingya Women in Clash over Homes
In June 2013, Associated Press reported: :At least three women from Myanmar's Rohingya minority were shot dead this week in a clash with security officials over new housing arrangements, police and activists said. A police officer in Mrauk-U township in western Rakhine state said three women died in the clash Tuesday in Parein village. The women and others were defying efforts to relocate them from the housing in which they have been living since their original homes were burned by Buddhists in a wave of sectarian clashes last year. [Source: Associated Press, June 5, 2013]
The officer from the Special Branch political police, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release information, said that six villagers were injured in the clash and some in the Rohingya crowd carried knives, sticks and slingshots.. A website covering Rohingya news, Rohingya Blogger, said four women were shot dead and five other villagers wounded in the confrontation, which broke out when workers from another township came to unload wood to build new dwellings. It said that when Parein villagers sought to stop the unloading, they began quarreling with police, who opened fire on them.
Similar, though not fatal, confrontations over relocation of Muslim Rohingya were reported in May, when officials sought to move reluctant residents from camps thought to be vulnerable to damage from an expected cyclone. In the end,Cyclone Mahasen veered away from Myanmar, causing no damage. But aid workers note that many of the camps, almost all of which shelter Rohingya, have inadequate shelter, medical care and other basic services.
Myanmar’s Efforts to Evacuate Rohingya Camps Before Cyclone Mahasen
Jared Ferrie of Reuters wrote: “Authorities in Myanmar struggled to evacuate tens of thousands of people, most of them Rohingya Muslims, before a cyclone reaches camps in low-lying regions that have been their home since ethnic and religious unrest last year. The Myanmar government had planned to move 38,000 internally displaced people, most of them Rohingya Muslims, but many have refused to relocate from camps in Rakhine State in the west of the country, afraid of the authorities' intentions. At least 192 people were killed in June and October last year in violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya, who are denied citizenship by the government in Myanmar and considered by many Buddhists to be immigrants from Bangladesh. [Source: Jared Ferrie, Reuters, May 15, 2013]
At a camp near the sea by Hmanzi Junction on the outskirts of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, several people told Reuters they would rather perish in the storm than evacuate. "We arrived here last year because of the clashes between Rakhine and Muslims. I lost everything. Both my mother and my two young daughters died," said Hla Maung, 38, a Muslim. "If the cyclone hits here, I will pray to Allah. Everyone here wants to die in the storm because we lost everything last year."
The evacuations in Myanmar are seen as a test of the government's willingness to help the Rohingya, an impoverished, long-persecuted people who bore the brunt of sectarian violence in Rakhine State and suffered before that during half a century of military rule. Hla Maung and others had rejected efforts by the U.N. refugee agency to move them to a nearby army barracks. They were told early they could take shelter in a school, but many still refused to go.
Most of the people in the camp had lived in Thandawli, a village in the Sittwe region destroyed in last June's violence. About 140,000 people were displaced in June and a second wave of violence in October Even before the storm developed, the United Nations has said about 69,000, most of them Rohingya Muslims, were living in Rakhine State in accommodation at risk of flooding and other damage during the rainy season, which starts this month.
It warned last week there could be a humanitarian catastrophe if people were not evacuated. One of a small convoy of boats carrying Rohingya Muslims capsized at around midnight a few nights before after hitting rocks off Pauktaw in Rakhine State. Official media said 42 people had been rescued but 58 were missing. Some reports have said eight bodies were found.
Speaking at a coordination meeting for Cyclone Mahasen in Yangon on Tuesday, President Thein Sein urged officials to use the experience gained in 2008 after Cyclone Nargis killed up to 140,000 people in the Irrawaddy Delta, south of the main city, Yangon. He stressed the need to treat everyone equally. "Security, safety, food and health care are crucial. And it's very important to carry out relief work on humanitarian grounds for all regardless of race and religion," official papers quoted him as saying.
Forty-eight Rohingya Killed in Attack on a Rakhine Village in January 2014
In January 2014, Associated Press reported: “The United Nations has confirmed that at least 48 Muslims appear to have been killed when Buddhist mobs attacked a village in an isolated corner of western Burma, a massacre that has been the vehemently denied by the government. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said he "strongly objects" to the U.N. claims and that the facts and figures were "totally wrong." The incident in Du Chee Yar Tan, a village in northern Rakhine state, appears to be the deadliest in a year, and would bring the total number of mostly Muslims killed in violence nationwide to more than 280. Another 250,000 people have fled their homes. [Source: Associated Press, January 24, 2014 >><<]
The attacks began on January 9 and peaked in the early hours of January 14, according to residents. “Buddhist Rakhine mobs, seeking retaliation for the abduction and killing of a police officer by Rohingya villagers, entered under the cloak of darkness with knives, sticks and guns and went on a killing spree, residents in the area told the AP on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals. Many of the victims were women and children, hacked to death by the mobs, they said. The humanitarian aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, said it has treated 22 patients, some with wounds It appealed to the government for safe access to the affected populations, many of whom are still in hiding.” >><<
Reporting from Du Chee Yar Tan, Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times: ““Myanmar’s government, intent on international acceptance and investment, has steadfastly denied the killings occurred in the village, a collection of hamlets spread across luxuriant rice fields close to Bangladesh and a five-hour ferry ride up the languid Kaladan River from the state capital, Sittwe. The country’s human rights commission called the news “unverifiable and unconfirmed.” ^*^ [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014 ^*^]
“Villagers’ accounts back up a United Nations investigation, which concluded that the attack on Du Chee Yar Tan that night resulted in the deaths of at least 40 men, women and children, one of the worst instances of violence against the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims. They were killed, the United Nations says, by local security forces and civilians of the rival Rakhine ethnic group, many of them adherents of an extreme Buddhist ideology who were angered by the kidnapping of a Rakhine policeman by some Rohingya men. ^*^
Jared Ferrie of Reuters wrote: “Bangkok-based Fortify Rights said it spoke to witnesses and other credible sources who confirmed the massacre, which would be the deadliest incident in western Rakhine state since October 2012. , "The actual number of deaths may be higher but information is circumscribed by government-imposed restrictions on access to the area," the group said in a statement. [Source: Jared Ferrie, Reuters, January 23, 2014]
Events of Massacre of Rohingya in January 2014
Jared Ferrie of Reuters wrote: “Fortify Rights said last week's violence began on Jan 9 when a group of Rohingya passing through Maungdaw were confronted by Buddhist Rakhine residents. On Jan 14, police and civilian Rakhines clashed with Rohingyas who allegedly killed a police officer, the rights group said. Security forces and civilian Rakhines returned in the early morning of Jan 14 and attacked villagers, mostly women and children who had not yet fled, Fortify Rights said. [Source: Jared Ferrie, Reuters, January 23, 2014]
Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times: “In the weeks before the attack on Du Chee Yar Tan, monks from the radical Buddhist movement called 969 visited a town nearby. The monks — who are at least tolerated by the national government, if not admired by some officials — have stirred anti-Muslim sentiment throughout parts of Myanmar. There was no formal connection between the appearance of the monks and the killings, experts said, but their hate speech has increasingly infected the sloganeering of Rakhine civilians. Now, they say, even moderate Rakhine feel it would be too dangerous to stand up for reconciliation. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014 ^*^]
Reports of the attack began circulating after a Jan 13 clash between police and Rohingya villagers in Maungdaw township, a remote area that is off limits to journalists, while access by humanitarian groups is strictly controlled. A Rohingya source told Reuters that a group of eight Rohingya clashed with police on the night of Jan 13. One police officer was killed along with two or three Rohingya, while the rest fled to a nearby village, he said. Security forces then surrounded the village and went on a rampage along with some Buddhist Rakhine civilians, killing as many as 70 Rohingya, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
The village was now deserted, he added. "Many people were arrested and disappeared," he said. "Some scattered in different places, in fear." Fortify Rights said the government was carrying out "mass arrests" of Rohingya. "These arbitrary detentions broaden the scope of the human rights violations in the area and should be immediately brought to an end," said Matthew Smith, the group's executive director.
Accounts of the Rohingya Massacre in January 2014
Reporting from Du Chee Yar Tan, Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times: “Under the pale moon of January 13, Zaw Patha watched from her bamboo house as Mohmach, 15, her eldest child, was dragged from the kiosk where he slept as guardian of the family business. The men who abducted the boy struck him with the butt of a rifle until he fell to the dirt path, she said. arms. Terrified, she fled into the rice fields. She assumes he is dead. Three doors away, Zoya, dressed in a black abaya, showed the latch on her front door that she said armed men had broken as they stormed in and began beating her 14-year-old son, Mohamed. She has not seen him since. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014 ^*^]
“The United Nations report documents the initial discovery of the massacre by five Muslim men who sneaked into the area after the attack. They found the severed heads of at least 10 Rohingya bobbing in a water tank. Some of those were children’s. One of the men said he was so rattled, and concerned his eyes were playing tricks in the darkness, that he put his hands in the tank to confirm through touch what he thought he saw. ^*^
“The United Nations report on the attack said nearby villagers reported that in the hours immediately afterward, they saw Rakhine security forces ferry 20 bodies to surrounding hills, probably to cover up the murders. Immediately after the slaughter, 22 wounded and traumatized villagers sought help at rural clinics run by Doctors Without Borders, the group said. ^*^
“Some were women traumatized by the horrors they witnessed, according to aid workers familiar with the cases; others sought treatment for wounds. At least some villagers have drifted back to check on their belongings. Zaw Patha, whose son was dragged from the kiosk, found that the goods he guarded had been looted and her cows stolen. ^*^
“Red liquid signifying blood was splashed on a school not far from her house, a warning to stay away. “To an extent, I understand the worry of the Rakhine about Rohingya population growth in an area next to Bangladesh,” said the international aid worker. “But at the same time, you can’t get rid of 1.3 million people.” *^*
Myanmar Government Denial of the Massacre of Rohingya in January 2014
Associated Press reported: “The first reports about the massacre occurred as Burma was hosting foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations as chair of the regional bloc. It was supposed to be an event showing how far the country had come since ending a half-century of military dictatorship. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut denied the AP report during the ASEAN meeting, insisting Du Chee Yar Tan was calm, with no killings, aside from that of the police sergeant. Almost daily articles denying that the massacre took place appeared in state-run newspapers in the days that followed. [Source: Associated Press, January 24, 2014 >><<]
“A statement on the Ministry of Information website said that Chief Minister of Rakhine state Hla Maung Tin visited the area earlier the week, together with a U.N. team, and told people about "false news published and aired by foreign media that children and women were killed in the violence." The only mob attack that took place, he said, was by Rohingya villagers on the police sergeant. >><<
Reuters reported: “Rakhine state government spokesman Win Myaing told Reuters on Thursday that he visited the area and found no evidence of mass killings. Government-run media on Thursday also carried denials of a massacre. State and national government spokesmen said police had been attacked. But they denied reprisal killings amid calls by the United Nations and the U.S. and British embassies for an investigation. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Thursday said Rakhine state officials found no evidence that women and children were killed, and quoted Rakhine state chief minister Hla Maung Tin accusing foreign media of reporting "false news". The newspaper said the blood-stained uniform of a police sergeant was recovered near the spot where about 100 Rohingya armed with knives and sticks attacked a police patrol.
Investigation of the Massace of Rohingya in January 2014
Associated Press reported: “ Northern Rakhine is off-limits to foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers have limited access, adding to the difficulties of confirming details about the violence. Though the village has been sealed off by security forces, Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, an independent human rights group, said some residents have been able to return during the day and reported that some bodies were seen in abandoned homes. He called for an end to mass arrests, saying that in the hours that followed the killings, riot police started rounding up all male Rohingya, including children over the age of 10, in surrounding areas. [Source: Associated Press, January 24, 2014 >><<]
An investigation by the United Nations confirmed that a massacre had taken place. The U.N. released a statement saying there were credible reports that at least 48 people had been killed in two separate bouts of violence. The U.N. based its findings on interviews with a cross-section of witnesses, victims and local officials on the ground. But rights workers stressed that the full truth will only come out if the government authorizes a full investigation, preferably to be carried out with outside assistance.
Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times: “The United Nations and the United States have kept up the pressure on Myanmar about the killings in Du Chee Yar Tan, and Myanmar’s government, which has already conducted two fast inquiries, has ordered another and included a Muslim on the panel, though not a Rohingya Muslim. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014 ^*^]
Myanmar Government Response to Anti-Rohingya Violence
Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times, “The killings are a test for Myanmar’s government, which has done little to rein in radical Buddhists, even as it pursues broad economic and political reforms of policies created by its former military leaders. The government has backed severe restrictions imposed by local authorities on Muslims’ freedom of movement and deprivation of basic services in Rakhine State, where most Rohingya live. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, March, 1, 2014]
Yadana Htun and Todd Pitman of Associated Press wrote: “Stopping the spread of sectarian violence has proven a major challenge for Thein Sein's government since it erupted in western Rakhine state last year. Human rights groups have recently accused his administration of failing to crack down on Buddhist extremists as violence has spread closer to the economic capital, Yangon, at times overwhelming riot police who have stood by as machete-wielding crowds attacked Muslims and their property. [Source: Yadana Htun and Todd Pitman, Associated Press, May 1, 2013 *-*]
In April 2013, “Human Rights Watch issued the most comprehensive and detailed account yet of the violence in Rakhine state. The report accused authorities — including Buddhist monks, local politicians and government officials, and state security forces — of fomenting an organized campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against a Muslim minority known as the Rohingya.” Around the same time “a government-appointed commission investigating the Rakhine violence issued proposals to ease tensions there — including doubling the number of security forces in the volatile region and introducing family planning programs to stem population growth among minority Muslims.” *-*
The U.S. State Department said there were credible allegations of the involvement of local border security authorities in the burning of villages during the communal violence in western Rakhine State, and of Muslims being arbitrarily detained since June 2012, and reportedly denied food, water, and sleep. Some deaths in custody were reported, the department said. Thein Sein told the Washington Post that allegations the Myanmar army condones or even participates in ethnic pogroms against the nation's Muslim minority were a "pure fabrication." [Source: Matthew Pennington, Associated Press, May 20, 2013]
Thein Sein has vowed that his government would do everything it can to protect the rights of minority Muslims. In a speech broadcast on state television, he said his "government will take all necessary action to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in Rakhine state, and to accommodate the needs and expectations of the Rakhine people." "In order for religious freedom to prevail, there must be tolerance and mutual respect among the members of different faiths," he said. Only then, he added, "will it be possible to coexist peacefully." [Source: Associated Press, May 7, 2013]
In September 2013, Al-Jazeera reported: “Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, travelled to the western state of Rakhine in his first visit since sectarian violence broke out more than a year ago."Just military and police forces won't be enough to control the situation. These burnings, killings and violence will not happen only when you take part to maintain peace by yourself" Sein said, addressing a gathering in Pauk Taw township, one of the townships faced with unrest. He was due to hold meetings with Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities during his two-day visit, according to a presidential office official. President Sein, who has been praised for making moves to transition from half a century of military rule, has also been criticised for failing to contain the unrest and protect the country's embattled Muslim minority. [Source: Al-Jazeera, October 1, 2013]
The state-owned newspaper Myanman Ahlin has reported that close to 1,500 people have been arrested on charges related to sectarian violence, and 535 of them have been convicted. Most of the cases are in Rakhine state, where more than 200 people were killed last year as tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were driven from their homes. The paper did not break down the numbers by religion. [Source: Associated Press, July 11, 2013]
See Myanmar Government Response to Anti-Muslim Violence
Response to the Rohingya Problem: Send Them to a Third Country
According to U.S. State Department: “The medium and long term solutions to the Rakhine crisis present very difficult political obstacles. Practical interventions to prevent further violence along with training in conflict mediation, dialogue facilitation, and community dialogue are necessary.” The Myanmar government’s solution was more simplistic—send the Rohingya to another country. Responding to this latest round of anti-Rohingya aggression, Burmese President Thein Sein said that the solution to the Rohingya problem was to put them into U.N.-administered internal camps, or expel them to any country "willing to accept them."
Human Rights Watch reported: “President Thein Sein suggested in July 2012 that the Rohingya be expelled from Burma to “third countries” or to camps overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He later appointed a 27-member commission to investigate the violence in Arakan State and make recommendations, but failed to include a Rohingya representative on the panel. [Source: Human Rights Watch]
Associated Press reported: “The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees rejected a suggestion by Myanmar's president that the world body resettle or take care of ethnic Rohingyas who have settled in the Southeast Asian country. UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres told reporters it was not his agency's job to resettle the Rohingya, who live in western Myanmar but without Myanmar citizenship. "The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it's not related to this situation," said Guterres. [Source: AP, July 12, 2012 ++]
“On his website, President Thein Sein said he told Guterres in a meeting that the solution to ethnic enmity in Myanmar's western Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingya to a third country or have the UNHCR look after them Thein Sein described the violence at the time as a threat to the democratic and economic reforms his government launched after decades of repressive rule by a military junta. ++
“Thein Sein told Guterres that according to Myanmar law, those Bengalis who settled in Myanmar before the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and their children are regarded as citizens. However, post-independence immigrants are officially considered illegal and threatening to the country's stability. "We will take responsibility of our ethnic nationals but it is impossible to accept those Rohingyas who are not our ethnic nationals who had entered the country illegally. The only solution is to hand those illegal Rohingyas to the UNHCR or to send them to any third country that would accept them," Thein Sein told Guterres, according to his website. ++
Myanmar Guilty of War Crimes in Regard to the Rohingya Problem
According to Human Rights Watch: “Under international law, crimes against humanity are crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack by a government or organization on a civilian population. Among the crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya since June were murder, deportation and forcible transfer of the population, and persecution. “Ethnic cleansing,” though not a formal legal term, has been defined as a purposeful policy by an ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas. [Source: Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2013 /\]
“Central to the persecution of the Rohingya is the 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies Burmese citizenship to Rohingya on discriminatory ethnic grounds. Because the law does not consider the Rohingya to be one of the eight recognized “national races,” which would entitle them to full citizenship, they must provide “conclusive evidence” that their ancestors settled in Burma before independence in 1948, a difficult if not impossible task for most Rohingya families. /\
The government and Burmese society openly consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from what is now Bangladesh and not a distinct “national race” of Burma, denying them consideration for full citizenship. Official government statements refer to them as “Bengali,” “so-called Rohingya,” or the pejorative “kalar.”
Text Sources: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: East and Southeast Asia, edited by Paul Hockings (C.K. Hall & Company); New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated May 2014