Burma Govt Accused of Ethnic Cleansing Against Rohingya Muslims

Burmese government troops patrol in conflict-ridden Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, in this June 2012 file photo. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Burma’s government was accused on Monday by a major international rights group of engaging in ethnic cleansing against Muslims in the country’s westernmost state, during waves of violence last year that left at least 180 people dead and 120,000 displaced.

In an extensive report released the same day the European Union was expected to permanently lift economic sanctions against the former pariah state, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the government and security forces in Arakan State committed “crimes against humanity” during clashes between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in June and October.

The New York-based rights group accused state security forces of backing Burmese officials, community leaders and Buddhist monks to “conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population.”

The government quickly rejected the report as “one-sided” and “unacceptable.”

HRW interviewed more than 100 survivors, witnesses and alleged perpetrators of the violence for its 153-page report, which examined the role of Burma’s government and local authorities in the conflict, as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Arakan State.

The rights group said that although security forces sometimes tried to stop the bloodshed, they more often watched clashes unfold or directly participated in them.

As rioters torched houses to the ground, the report said, one soldier told a Muslim, “The only thing you can do is pray to save your lives.”

‘Ethnic cleansing’

After the first wave of clashes erupted in June, HRW said in its report that Burmese authorities destroyed mosques and blocked aid to displaced Muslims, mostly from the ethnic Rohingya Muslim group.

The rights watchdog accused authorities of failing to intervene in the following months when Buddhist monks and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) issued anti-Rohingya pamphlets that called for the ethnic Muslim minority to be removed from Burma and at times reportedly used the phrase “ethnic cleansing.”

“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,” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report.

The rights watchdog accused the government of “obstructing the effective delivery of humanitarian aid” to overcrowded camps for internally displaced persons, where humanitarian aid workers say they lack adequate food, water and medical supplies.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said government red tape slowed the delivery of aid to displaced persons in the state.

“Things like visas and travel authorizations can take a long time in coming, and if you’re trying to run an operation, having these bureaucratic hurdles to overcome really delays aid,” OCHA spokeswoman Kirsten Mildren told the Irrawaddy on Monday, adding that her organization was working with the government to streamline the process.

“Certain NGOs are not being granted access to certain areas because of security concerns,” she said. “We strongly advocate that everyone get access to provide the support that is needed because there are critical humanitarian needs on the ground.”

The government’s response

A top government spokesman denied the HRW allegations within hours of the report’s release on Monday morning.

“The Human Rights Watch report is not acceptable because it’s one-sided,” government spokesman Ye Htut said in a post on his official Facebook page. “The vocabulary used in the report is unacceptable. The government disregards this kind of one-sided report.”

Ye Htut, who is also Burma’s deputy minister of information, added that the government would implement the recommendations of the Arakan Investigation Commission, an official fact-finding team that formed in August and is set to release its own report on Tuesday about the causes of the clashes.

“Human Rights Watch released their report the same day the EU will consider [lifting] sanctions, so the report is questionable,” he added in the Facebook post.

The European Union suspended most of its economic sanctions against Burma one year ago but is expected to go further and “lift all sanctions with the exception of the embargo on arms” in recognition of the country’s political reforms, according to a document seen by Reuters last week.

HRW defended its allegations, calling on the government to allow an international inquiry into the clashes and to bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

“These are allegations that Human Rights Watch does not make lightly,” Matt Smith, an HRW researcher in Burma who helped write the report, told The Irrawaddy. “Crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing are very serious situations, very serious crimes, and we do not take these allegations lightly.”

Citing international law, the report defines crimes against humanity as “crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack by the government or organization on a civilian population.”

The HRW allegations on Monday came shortly after a video surfaced in international media showing Burmese security forces standing back during another wave of anti-Muslim riots in central Burma last month.

The video, which was reportedly filmed by Burmese police officials and published by the BBC, shows police watching as Muslim victims were burned and beaten to death during riots in the central Burma town of Meikhtila Township.

According to government reports, 43 people were killed during three days of clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in the town, while 86 people were injured and 1,355 houses, shops and buildings were destroyed.

Smith said that although HRW had not gathered the extensive research in Meikhtila required to make any allegations of ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity there, the video raised concerns.

“There are serious concerns that what we’re seeing in Arakan State is being replicated in other parts of the country,” he told The Irrawaddy. “It calls into question the government’s commitment to human rights reform.”

22 Responses to Burma Govt Accused of Ethnic Cleansing Against Rohingya Muslims

  1. The human rights report released on April 19, 2013 by the US Department of State did not find any such problem and said Myanmar made progress on its human rights. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other international organizations are being used as a mouth piece by Saudi Arabia and the muslim countries with vast petro dollars in a consorted propaganda campaign to annex Myanmar, now a predominantly Buddhist nation, into a muslim Sharia state. This conspiracy to create independent “Newrosia” state was revealed in several investigative reports from neighboring Bangladesh, a muslim country. The truth is that there have been ethnic cleansing of Buddhist in Bangladesh. It was reported today in bdnews24.com that a Buddhist temple was vandalized in the Boalkhali Upazila in Chittagong, Bangladesh. It is time for predominantly Buddhist nations (starting with Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Mongolia) to form an international organization such as ORGANIZATION OF BUDDHIST NATIONS (OBN) not only to counter the threat from Muslim fundamentalism and other forms of terrorism but also to have a united voice in world affairs.

    • HRW’s report is 100% correct. Every country is free to form any organization. One can not attack an intl body just because their report is not as per anyone’s wish. Intl bodies are selfless one not like own investigation commission which even not included regional MP.

  2. There is no ethnic cleansing or genocide at all in Myanmar. Whoever want to read ethnic cleansing or genocide should search at Net with Google search. Please write down Armania genocide, Jews genocides, Indonesia genocides, Cambodia genocide, Rwandan genocide and Bosnia-Herzegovina genocide etc.

    Sorry, Irrawaddy is so keen to promote for the Islamist cause in Myanmar. Saudi should reward it!!!

    • Right. So, in your twisted universe, this is not considered a genocide because the number of Muslims killed by Burmen pales in comparison to Jews in holocaust, Bosnia Muslim in Balkan wars. What is the target number in your mind? How many zero does it take to make into your g list?

  3. TheBurmeseFreedomFighter

    Irrawaddy always has exaggerated sense of the reality of the riots on the ground without giving any though to the sensibility of Burmese people trapped in the violence.

    The video shown on BBC didn’t have any human being set on fire, nor beaten but only the building being destroyed by hands of angry mob. This is the fact and everyone can watch it on BBC.

    There is no check and balance of the situation in this article that make me think of Irrawaddy such a mouth piece of its funders.

    Irrawaddy, you can do better than that, don’t be garbage in, garbage out! No more garbage please!

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    • Go to the video posted on April 22, 2013 at BBC.co.uk/burmese. Look at 2:30 mark in the video. A group of mad men were mercilessly beating someone on the ground. Even a man in robe was among the perpetrators.

      Show at least some decency by keeping the vow of silence if you don’t have guts to accept facts. Lying through your teeth in the presence of facts is uncalled for and very low.

    • I think that you are blind or you cannot interpret something you see or you have the disorder of explaining facts disorderly.

    • TBFF,
      We are talking about facts, not fictions. We are talking about evidence, not assumption. Everyone who watched the video of Meikhtila wept. But you the Burmans still laugh at this horrible incident. Shame on you guys. If Buddhism is this bad, then Buddhism may be of the Devil.

  4. I can’t wake up every time dog was barking. This is HRW job for to adding fictitious imaginary story in their report otherwise they will lose their job and fund from Muslim supporters.
    I have read in other media HRW said they have evidence about mass graves in Rakhine. HRW was feeding fault news by overseas Bengali Muslim so called Rohingya organization.
    HRW must give pressure on Bangladeshi Government for to take back its citizen from Rakhine state, Burma instead of accusing Burmese Government for discriminating on illegal Bengali migrants for not given citizenship.
    The illegal Bengali migrants will tell same fabricated story to HRW if you interview illegal Bengali migrant 100 peoples or 1000 peoples or adult or children. They taught their children to lie and fabricated story. I remember a little girl told to reporter about Burmese Government Helicopter shot at their boat when they fled to Bangladesh. The dumb reporter believes that story and reported it.
    How many descendent of illegal Bengali Migrants from Rakhine state on Rohingya refugees boat? I believe only a few Bengalis from Rakhine state are on Rohingya refugees boats.
    Only those peoples confessed who arrived on Sri Lanka because they know they have nowhere to go except go back to Bangladesh. HRW knows about that but HRW peoples pretend to be no knowledge of that.

    Why HRW doesn’t criticize on Bangladeshi Government for ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Bangladeshi soldiers and Bengali Muslim settlers in Chittagong Hill Tracts?
    Does Phil Robertson have one eye and one ear only?
    Dear Phil Robertson, Buddhist Jumma native peoples of Chittagong Hill Tracts are human too.
    Did you know Chittagong Hill Tracts was historically belonging to Rakhine state, Burma?
    Why did you and you’re HRW organization ignore the crimes committed on Buddhist Jumma peoples by Bangladeshi Government’s army and its citizen Bengali Muslim settlers in Chittagong Hill Tracts?

    Illegal Bengali migrants issue is Burma border security matter and all illegal migrants must be dealing with Burmese immigration law. If their ancestors immigrated to Burma before1948 and they have proved of that and then that person will be granted as Burmese citizenship according to 1982 Burmese citizenship law. The illegal Bengali migrants in Rakhine state are creating Rohingya ethnic because they can not produce evidence they are descendents of legal migrant of British Burma.
    Burmese Government does not need to answer for HRW accusation because it’s baseless and propaganda of Bengali Muslim so called Rohingya organization.

    Burmese Government and Burmese peoples must concentrate on democratic reform in Burma.

    • If Burmen government believes that HRW has made up the story about mass rohingya grave, why doesn’t Thein Sein let HRW and Rohingya witnesses point out the burial site in front of domastic and foreign media? If there is no human remain, then HRW is a bluff. If there are human remains found, Burmen government should be condemned by the international community, and you by the other posters in this forum.

      What do you have to say about the Meikhtila riot video that BBC recently attained? It shows a teenage boy was clubbed to death by what seemed to a group of Burmen thugs including a man in robe. It can be watched at the BBC burmese page. I’ll be happy to provide you with direct link if you want to pretend not finding it.

      • Who knows the mass grave was buried by illegal Bengali migrants themselves during Rakhine communal riot. They are just allegation by descendent of illegal Bengali migrants so called Rohingya organization in overseas.
        The lost of lives were on both sides. The riot was started by illegal Bengali migrants after Taunggoke incident. The illegal Bengali migrants start lifting fire on Buddhist property and kill Buddhists. Now they are crying loud for help.
        Why they start it? The Rakhine and other ethnics will be react same action as what illegal Bengali migrants did to Buddhists.
        In Meikhtila, some of Muslims are very lucky to be survived because they were in Burma.
        If Muslim Imam was murder by Christian men or Buddhist men in Muslim country and then the Muslims will kill all Christians or Buddhists.
        Some of young Buddhist monks were involved in riot because of Buddhist monk was murdered by group of Muslim men. However, I do not see any pictures evidence for Buddhist monks involving in beating Muslim but they were involved in riot because the monk was murder by Muslim.
        Police officers were out numbers by mob and they do not dare to save life of Muslim man. You can not say Police officers were involved in killing of Muslim man because they did not try to intervene it. One side hurting other side was nature for any communal riot in the world. However, anyone who committed crimes must be prosecuted by law regardless of Buddhist or Muslim.
        HRW accusation is baseless about Buddhist monks were responsible for inciting communal riot in Rakhine state. HRW blind eyes on Muslims start lifting fire on Buddhists’ home and Buddhist monasteries. HRW, MSF and NGOs may be independent organization but their staffs are not. Muslim started riot by after Muslim staff from MSF show Taunggoke incident pictures to Muslim.
        HRW report was written in the office and their interviews were with illegal Bengali migrants. There’s no evidences about Government and security force were involving killing illegal Bengali migrants in Rakhine. They only could not contain the riot in early incident because Police officers do not have enough manpower and weapons.
        I agreed with you one thing. It’s Burmese Government must be investigated about mass graves allegation by forming independent body included with Burmese Muslim leaders.

    • U Kan,
      I had been to Chittagong Hill Tracts. I visited many Chin villages there. They enjoyed their livelihood. They have freedom of religion. They practiced their christian faith without government’s nor other religions’ interference. You know that Muslims are super majority but Christians and Buddhists are protected by the government according to the law to practice freedom of worship. So, I hope you understand now as I tell you what I saw with my own two eyes. Christian Chins in Bangladesh enjoy greater freedom than Chins in Burma even though the Chins inside the Union of Burma are one of the founding members of the Union. (I believe you read about Thingyan Festival celebrated in Bangladesh by Marma ethnic people this year).

  5. I don’t understand why do we want to legitimize violence, that all of the commenters here are trying best to do. It is no denying the fact that there have been severe violations of Human Rights against the Muslims in Myanmar, that hasn’t happened to any minor ethnic communities anywhere this century. I could have said this this report was fabricated and purposeful, haven’t there been repeated eruptions of violence in 2012, 2013 and god knows what lies ahead. Patterns of violence against the Muslims have been the same. Each time the Buddhist terrorists come up with a concocted tale that explain how brutally some Muslims killed a monk or raped a girl, although no one saw it and then it is legitimate for them to torch Muslim homes, rape their women and kill the men and even children. As if there in no law, no prohibition to kill Muslims, to burn down their properties. I am from Bangladesh and my home is in Chittagong. I have some Buddhist friends and really, the girl I like most is a Buddhist but I don’t think that either her or my community will allow us to tie a knot. I asked them, Lord Buddha was a peace loving person who prohibited even slaughtering any animal. But how do the followers of peace loving Buddha can kill people where it is strictly prohibited to kill any animal even. Their only reply as that “They are not Buddhist, they are terrorist”. Yes, you the killers are not Buddhists, but using the logo of Buddhism and at the same time representing Islam and Muslim as terrorists. Everywhere you are trying to protect Buddhism from Islam in Myanmar, as revealed by your comments. In this way you are trying to legitimize your violence. But you people can never be a Buddhist, you are always terrorist. Terrorism is your religion.

  6. I have have no doubt that the HRW get alot of money for every article like that. Muslim mouthpiece HRW should be punished in Myanmar! Don’t let them come in.

    • Oh, you always expect the jackpot in your pocket! At least try to accept fact silently rather supporting lies vigorously. You are talking as if each and every lines of the report are fake and fabricated. HRW had also published reports earlier on Myanmar. And you people accepted those as revelations. Remember truth has no taste even if you feel it bitter and someone bites.

  7. Best way to protect our nation is keep helping each other and do not hesitant, whatever those Rohingya Bangali Muslim migrant terrorist devil said . This is our national interest . This is our land . This is our religions . We have to do whatever we can to protect our mother land from those Rohingya Bangali Muslim migrant terrorist . We stay in Burma , we are Burmese , we pray to Buddha and we are Buddhist . It is anything wrong with other religion , that is their problem . Traitor is traitor , no matter journalist or politician or whatever is you are , you must protect your mother and father , brother and sister , this is not about human right , this is human being .

    • Yes, you are also Burmese terrors.

      • You don’t protect your family and your country by randomly attacking other ethnic groups or other faithful like mad men. This is not Stone Age. If your blind chauvinsm was justified, would you also accept it if Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, S. Korea, UAE and so on made up some phony excuses and attack millions of Burmen workers in their countries?

  8. HRW takes onesided position and seems to be strongly influenced by Islamic interests (whatever the reasons might be, perhaps also material ones). HRWs sincerity is to be questioned. That opinion is widespread in western countries. And there are good reasons !

  9. Myanmar government are Number one denier of reality on earth,in case of rohingya ethnic genocide.with extremist rakhine magh,radical monks,chauvinist,through out the country joint hand to exterminate Muslim in the country.HRW reported how rohingya ethnic are killed,burnt alive in the hand of rakhine magh extremist with support of government. it is remarkable word by army,PRAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE while killing rohingya ethnic without mercy.government in naypaytaw,rakhine magh,Buddhist monks through out the country Glorifying for their crime against humanity.HRW report must reorganized by UN, international community act quickly to prevent further genocide.security council should refer Thein sein& groups to ICC to take action.Burma terrorist monks killing Muslim should not allow further.genocide in Kosovo,Bosnia,Rwanda,darfur can match in rakhine genocide against rohingya,for world arakan will remember as Asia holocaust.

  10. Weren’t more than 90% of the dead people Muslims? And the government says the report is one sided against them even though police were photographed standing there watching as the murders and house burnings took place. Shameful actions and shameful lies. Please rely on truth (even though it hurts many times) and doing the right thing from now on.

  11. The reporter use the word “accuse” throughout the article and although it quotes HRW, the quotes are accusatory in tone. Why no mention of how HRW came to their conclusion by citing their interviews with the sources on the ground and the facts they found? As a follower of the issue I would be interested in those in order to weight their conclusion. Like the reporter mentioned it is a 153 pages report but the portion this article allocate for it, which is the main peg of the story is too little.

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