Myanmar panel recommends security boost

2013-04-29 16:27
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Yangon - A government-appointed commission investigating sectarian violence in western Myanmar last year, has issued proposals to ease tensions there — including doubling the number of security forces in the volatile region and introducing family planning programmes to stem population growth among minority Muslims.

But an executive summary of the report, obtained by AP on Monday, offered no concrete solutions for returning about 125 000 displaced Rohgingya Muslims to their homes, saying the widespread segregation of Buddhists and Muslims is a temporary fix that must be enforced for now.

"While keeping the two communities apart is not a long-term solution, it must be enforced at least until the overt emotions subside," the report said.

Two outbreaks of unrest between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in June and October left nearly 200 people dead and forced tens of thousands of people, mostly Muslims, to flee burning homes.

The violence appeared to begin spontaneously, but by October had morphed into anti-Muslim pogroms across western Rakhine state that spread last month into central Myanmar.

The report's summary said concerns expressed by Buddhists in Rakhine state over the rising population of Muslims they see as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had "undermined peaceful coexistence" between the two communities.

It said the introduction of family planning education should be voluntary, but "would go some way to mitigating" toward ameliorating the crisis.

A challenge for government

The report also called for a crackdown on hate speech and stepped-up aid for the displaced ahead of monsoon rains expected in May, and urged the government to determine the citizenship status of all those living in Rakhine state.

The issue has posed a major challenge to the government of President Thein Sein, who took office after a long-ruling military junta stepped down two years ago and has since embarked upon a series of widely praised reforms.

Most Rohingya are effectively stateless despite the fact that some have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not include Rohingya as one of 135 recognised ethnicities.

Thein Sein appointed a 27-member panel last year to investigate the causes of the conflict and recommend measures to prevent further violence.

Its findings had been delayed several times.

The report did not use the word Rohingya, instead conforming to the government practice of calling the Rohingya "Bengalis", a reference to their South Asian roots.

Security forces

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the report "fails to address the need for accountability for ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that happened in last June and October”.

"By failing to hold responsible the individuals, who committed these grievous crimes, the government will miss deterring precisely those extremists, who are prepared to use more violence in the future to achieve their aims," Robertson said.

He also said that doubling the number of security forces "without first ensuring implementation of reforms to end those forces' impunity is a potential disaster”.

Last week, Human Rights Watch issued the most comprehensive and detailed account yet of what happened in Rakhine state last year.

The group's report accused authorities — including Buddhist monks, local politicians and government officials, and state security forces — of fomenting an organised campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya.

Read more on:    hrw  |  thein sein  |  myanmar  |  religion

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