Abuses against Rohingya in Burma

On 10 June, a state of emergency was declared in Burma’s Rakhine State. Just when it seemed that Burma was making some serious progress on human rights, and perhaps entering a period of calm. Amnesty had been celebrating the prisoner releases over the last year in Burma, but now the overall number of political prisoners in the country, is once again on the rise.

A state of emergency was declared, following an outbreak of communal violence among the Buddhist and Muslim communities who live in Rakhine State. It started when a Buddhist girl was raped and killed, allegedly by a Muslim man. Following that terrible incident, a large group of local Buddhists killed ten Muslims in the Taung Gouk township in Rakhine State, as they were returning by bus to their homes.

For background, read this from  the BBC:

Who are the Rohingyas?

The United Nations describes Rohingya as a persecuted religious and linguistic minority from western Burma. The Burmese government, on the other hand, says they are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent. Neighbouring Bangladesh already hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Burma and says it cannot take any more.

Since the state of emergency was imposed, Burma’s Border Security Force, the army, and police have conducted massive sweeps in areas that are heavily populated by Rohingyas. Hundreds of mostly men and boys have been detained, with nearly all held incommunicado, and many of them subjected to ill-treatment. These concerns are not new, read this Guardian  comment piece from Burmese comedian  Zarganar on the subject, written when he was visiting the UK, last month.

Amnesty has also received credible reports of other human rights abuses against Rohingyas and other Rakhine Muslims– including physical abuse, rape, destruction of property, and unlawful killings – carried out by both Rakhine Buddhists and the security forces. Officially 78 people have died in the violence, but unofficial estimates put the number far higher. See this distressing piece from the BBC.

The Rohingya have faced widespread repression and discrimination at the hands of the Burmese  authorities for decades, including being subjected to forced labour, land confiscation and severe restrictions on travel and marriage. They have also been rendered effectively stateless under the 1982 Citizenship Law (read more here)

Now, they are being prevented from fleeing the violence over the Naff  river to Bangladesh. Amnesty is calling on Burma’s Parliament to amend or repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law to ensure that Rohingyas are no longer stateless. You can read more, here.

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