Myanmar Rohingya under vicious attack

2012-10-27 10:13

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Myanmar (also known as Burma) to protect Rohingya Muslims, warning that unrest that has left dozens dead and thousands displaced is “likely to get worse” unless the root causes are addressed.

Fresh communal fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state this week, which has sent thousands fleeing to already overcrowded camps, has disproportionately targeted stateless Rohingya communities.

The group called on Myanmar to urgently provide security for the Rohingya, which it said were under “vicious attack”, and to ensure protection and aid were given to the affected Muslim and Buddhist communities in the region.

“Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.

More than 150 people from both communities have been killed in the state since violence first sparked in June, according to the government, which has imposed emergency rule in the face of continued tension in the region.

HRW said it had obtained satellite images showing “extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya area” of Kyaukpyu – where a major pipeline to transport gas to China begins.

The official death toll from the new fighting, which began on October 21, was given as 67 in state media today.

The figure was revised from a number of more than 100 given by a Rahkine state spokesman on Friday, who later said there had been a “mistake in calculating”.

HRW “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,” the group said.

Myanmar’s 800 000 Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh by the government and many Burmese.

The Rohingya, speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in neighbouring Bangladesh, have long been considered by the UN one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet.

The latest violence demonstrates “how urgent it is that the authorities intervene to protect everyone and break the cycle of discrimination and violence”, said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

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