RANGOON — The UN human rights rapporteur for Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana has condemned a shooting incident that killed three Rohingya women in Arakan State last week, calling it a “shocking example” of how government security forces continue to mistreat the Muslim minority “with complete impunity.”
On June 4, local authorities ordered a group of Rohingyas living in makeshift homes in Parein Village, Mrauk-U Township, to leave their village and relocate to another site. When they protested against the order police opened fire on the villagers, killing three women, and injuring five villagers
“The fatal shooting last week of three Rohingya women participating in a peaceful protest in [Arakan] State is the latest shocking example of how law enforcement officials operate with complete impunity there,” Quintana said in a statement released on Tuesday.
He said that Burma’s government should conduct an impartial investigation into the deadly shooting and other gross rights abuses committed by security forces against the Rohingyas, which the UN envoy said are “widespread and systematic.”
“However, since the violence in [Arakan] State first erupted last June, I have seen absolutely no evidence that the government is fulfilling this obligation,” Quintana said.
His comments come ahead of a statement on Burma by the President of the UN Human Rights Council, which is expected this week.
One year ago, waves of blood inter-communal violence broke out between Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists. Some 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced by the unrest, which killed almost 200 people.
The government, which has deployed thousands of armed security forces in the region, has been accused of actively supporting the Arakanese mobs and of committing a wide range of human rights abuses against the Rohingya population, including confining them to camps and villages.
Burma’s Buddhist-majority government rejects the citizenship claims of the Rohingyas and stresses that they are “Bengalis,” who crossed into Burma illegally from Bangladesh in the past decades. The Rohingya insist they have lived in Arakan State for many generations.
Shwe Maung, a parliamentarian with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, said some villagers involved in the shooting incident had told him that they were shot at simply because they had objected to being relocated.
Shwe Maung, who comes from the Muslim-dominated constituency of Maungdaw Township in Arakan State, said the incident was “a clear-cut case of human rights violation,” as police should have never opened fire on an unarmed crowd. “They could have shot in the air, they could have used teargas or rubber bullets,” he added.
The lawmaker said however, that UN rights envoy Quintana had put out his statement too soon, as a thorough investigation into the incident should be conducted first to gather all the facts. “If he now already says that it happened with impunity, I would not agree,” Shwe Maung said.
Myo Thant, a Rohingya politician with the Maungdaw-based Democracy and Human Rights Party, said villagers had told him that the police opened fire without any provocation by the villagers.
“The officials came and said that they will move them to a refugee camp,” he said, “But they villagers didn’t want to go, they are afraid they will lose their land, and that they will have to stay in the camps, or have to go another country.”
Since the shooting, he said, police had come to the village to arrest 30 men and boys, adding that authorities were trying to accuse the Rohingyas of having resisted government orders in order to make them culpable for the incident. “They are accused of disturbing the policemen while they are carrying out their duties,” he added.