Muslim Rohingyas under “vicious” attack in Myanmar: rights group

Source: Muslim Rohingyas under “vicious” attack in Myanmar: rights group

(Reuters) – A human rights group expressed concern for the safety of thousands of Muslims on Saturday after revealing satellite images of a once-thriving coastal community reduced to ashes during a week of violence in western Myanmar.

The images released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch show “near total destruction” of a predominantly Rohingya Muslim part of Kyaukpyu, one of several areas in Rakhine state where battles between Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists threaten to derail the former Burma’s fragile democratic transition.

More than 811 buildings and houseboats were razed in Kyaukpyu on October 24, forcing many Rohingya to flee north by sea toward the state capital Sittwe, said Human Rights Watch.

“Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan (Rakhine) State, who are under vicious attack,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director. (Link to Human Rights Watch images: here related_material/2012_Burma_Satimage.pdf)

There were widespread unconfirmed reports of boatloads of Rohingyas trying to cross the sea border to neighboring Bangladesh, which has denied them refugee status since 1992.

Dozens of boats full of Rohingyas with no food or water had fled Kyaukpyu, an industrial zone important to China, and other recent hotspots were seeking access on Friday to overcrowded refugee camps around the state capital Sittwe, according to four Rohingya refugee sources.

Some boats were blocked by security forces from reaching the shore and few Rohingyas managed to reach the camps, the sources said by telephone.

Wan-lark foundation, an organization that has been assisting Rakhine Buddhist refugees, said no clashes in the state had been reported to them since Friday night, but dead bodies of Rakhines had been found.

“Around 6pm last night in Kyawtyaw, the bodies of 16 Rakhines were found in the sea. They had died during the attacks on Thursday. We’re looking for more bodies,” representative Tun Mein Thein said on Saturday.

The chaos suggests the reformist government is struggling to contain historic ethnic and religious tensions suppressed during nearly a half century of military rule that ended last year.

A Rakhine government spokesman put the death toll at 112 as of Friday. But within hours state media revised it to 67 killed from October 21 to 25, with 95 wounded and nearly 3,000 houses destroyed.


The death toll could be far higher, said Human Rights Watch, citing “allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state.”

The clashes come just five months after communal unrest killed more than 80 people and displaced at least 75,000 in the same region.

A boat carrying 120 Muslims from Kyaukpyu was intercepted by Rakhines, who killed the men and raped the women, the advocacy group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said in a statement. This claim could not be verified.

“Ethnic cleansing is happening under the noses of the international community and they are doing nothing,” said Tun Khin, the group’s president. “We have confirmed reports that hundreds of people have been killed and the government must be aware of that.”

Kyaukpyu is crucial to China’s most strategic investment in Myanmar: twin pipelines that will carry oil and natural gas through the town on the Bay of Bengal to China’s energy-hungry western provinces.

The United Nations has warned that Myanmar’s fledgling democracy could be “irreparably damaged” by the violence.

Rohingyas are officially stateless. Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, and denies them citizenship.

But many of those expelled from Kyaukpyu are not Rohingya but Muslims from the officially recognized Kaman minority, said Chris Lewa, director of the Rohingya advocacy group, Arakan Project. “It’s not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore, it’s anti-Muslim,” she said.

It was unclear what set off the latest arson and killing that started on Sunday. In June, tension flared after the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman that was blamed on Muslims, but there was no obvious spark this time.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International have called on Myanmar to amend or repeal a 1982 citizenship law to end the Rohingyas’ stateless condition.

(Reporting by Reuters staff reporters; Writing by Andrew R.C. Marshall; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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3 Responses to “Muslim Rohingyas under “vicious” attack in Myanmar: rights group”

  1. drkokogyi Says:

    Rights Group Captures Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing by Satellite Reporting

    By Human Rights Watch Media Release
    Saturday, October 27, 2012
    PHUKET: With the media banned from reporting at first hand the Phase II ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims now taking place in Burma (Myanmar), Human Rights Watch uses satellite technology to detail the scale of recent deadly devastation.

    THE GOVERNMENT of Burma should take immediate steps to stop sectarian violence against the Rohingya Muslim population in Arakan (Rakhine) State in western Burma and ensure protection and aid to both Rohingyas and Arakanese in the state, Human Rights Watch said today.

    New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area of the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu – one of several areas of new violence and displacement.

    Human Rights Watch identified 811 destroyed structures on the eastern coastal edge of Kyauk Pyu following arson attacks reportedly conducted on October 24, 2012, less than 24 hours before the satellite images were captured.

    The area of destruction measures 35 acres and includes 633 buildings and 178 houseboats and floating barges adjacent on the water, all of which were razed.

    There are no indications of fire damage to the immediate west and east of this zone of destruction.

    Media accounts and local officials said that many Rohingya in the town fled by sea toward Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, 200 kilometers to the north.

    Violence renewed between Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims on October 21 and continued all week in at least five townships: Minbya, Mrak-U, Myebon, Rathedaung, and Kyauk Pyu.

    This was the first time violence had reached Kyauk Pyu and most of these other parts of the state since the sectarian violence and related abuses by state security forces against the Rohingya began in early June.

    The Rohingya have suffered the brunt of the violence.

    ”Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan State, who are under vicious attack,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

    ”Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse.”

    The Burmese government initially said that more than 2800 houses were burned down in the new violence and that 112 people were killed, an estimate they later reduced to 64.

    Human Rights Watch fears the death toll is far higher based on allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state.

    In June, Human Rights Watch documented killings, rape, and mass arrests by Burmese security forces against Rohingya Muslims after the security forces failed to protect both them and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence.

    Since then, government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community left many of the displaced – at times as many as 104,000 people – in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care.

    Before this most recent outbreak of violence, the local Arakan Buddhist population had largely resumed life and daily activities as usual.

    The approximately 75,000 internally displaced persons, most of them Rohingya, were still taking shelter in at least 40 displacement camps in Sittwe and Kyauktaw townships. The 15 largest camps surround Sittwe.

    Sittwe’s estimated population of 200,000 people had been divided evenly between Buddhists and Muslims.

    Now the Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslim population of Sittwe has been largely segregated to the displacement camps, and Sittwe is nearly devoid of Muslims.

    The Burmese government denies citizenship to most Rohingya and the protections that come with it.

    Since communal violence between Rohingya and Arakanese erupted in June, many Rohingya have been compelled to live in squalid camps in Arakan State, where they have been denied access to adequate humanitarian aid and vulnerable to attack from Arakan militants.

    President Thein Sein appointed an investigative commission earlier in 2012 to determine the causes of violence, but has yet to propose any policies to address those causes.

    He has at times called for the segregation of the Rohingya and even their expulsion from Burma, which feeds popular animosity against the Rohingya from the general population.

    The opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for establishing the rule of law in the Arakan State, but has not used her moral authority to urge reconciliation or end discriminatory treatment of the Rohingya under Burma’s nationality law.

    The recent resurgence of violence and displacement of thousands more Rohingya will put added pressure on the humanitarian needs in the state, Human Rights Watch said.

    Humanitarian agencies have had little to no access to remote rural areas where affected Rohingya are located, and some of the IDP camps need adequate shelter, water and sanitation, health, education, and other aid. Moreover, all United Nations and international agency pre-crisis humanitarian aid programs to the Rohingya population were suspended by the central government in June, Some – but not all – have been reauthorised.

    Approximately one million Rohingya in Burma were effectively stripped of the right to citizenship with the passage of the 1982 Citizenship Law, though most have been residents of Arakan State for decades.

    Both the Rohingya and Arakan communities have long experienced a litany of abuses by the Burmese authorities.

    ”Deploying sufficient security forces to restore order impartially and protect basic rights in Arakan State is necessary, but not enough,” Robertson said.

    ”Burmese government officials and opposition leaders need to condemn the violence and work for lasting solutions to Arakan’s ethnic problems.”

  2. drkokogyi Says:

    But many of those expelled from Kyaukpyu are not Rohingya but Muslims from the officially recognized Kaman minority, said Chris Lewa, director of the Rohingya advocacy group, Arakan Project. “It’s not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore, it’s anti-Muslim,” she said.

  3. Atrocities in Burma: Buddhists Slaughter More Than 1000 Rohingya Muslims in Ethnic Cleansing « Screenshots Says:

    […] Muslim Rohingyas under “vicious” attack in Myanmar: rights group ( […]

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