HRW alleges ′ethnic cleansing′ of Rohingya in Myanmar | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 22.04.2013
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HRW alleges 'ethnic cleansing' of Rohingya in Myanmar

Human Rights Watch has published a report claiming ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar. The document, based on field interviews, says authorities encouraged the actions.

The Human Rights Watch organization released its 153-page report on Monday, saying authorities in Myanamar were complicit in a "campaign of ethnic cleansing" against the minority Rohingya Muslim community.

HRW said that government officials, community leaders and Buddhist monks "organized and encouraged" ethnic Arakanese people, local to the affected western state on the Bay of Bengal now officially known as Rakhine but called Arakan by HRW, "to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population."

The documented indicated an estimated 125,000 internally displaced people, and also alleged the killings of "at least 70 Rohingya" in a single attack on October 23, 2012, at the Yan Thei village.

"In October, security forces either looked the other way as Arakanese mobs attacked Muslim settlements or joined in the bloodletting and arson," HRW's deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said. "Six months later, 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."

Myanmar, still referred to by its previous official name Burma by some including HRW, has begun a political reform process leading to the lifting of sanctions by the US, EU and others. The admission into parliament of prominent democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party by the country's former military government led by President Thein Sein was the most publicized political progress. The state of Rakhine or Arakan, however, remains probably its most restless region.

HRW's report "draws on more than 100 interviews" with Buddhists and Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims, with the group saying it spoke to witnesses, survivors, "as well as some organizers and perpetrators of the violence."

Either looked the other way … or joined in

The rights group said that the October attacks were meticulously planned, identifying the local "sangha" order of Buddhist monks and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, a comparatively new regional political organization, as the key orchestrators. HRW says that both groups issued pamphlets and public statements calling for the Rohingya's removal from the region, saying they sometimes employed the phrase ethnic cleansing. Police were reportedly aware of the attacks, and sometimes present, but did not act to prevent them.

"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," HRW's Phil Robertson said. "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."

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Myanmar human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, visited Rakhine earlier in the year, saying after his visit that he had "received reports of state involvement in some of the acts of violence." His comments prompted Myanmar's government to say it was "regrettable" that Quintana had commented "based on secondhand information without correctly studying the situation on the groud."

msh/mkg (AFP, dpa)