Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekly Highlights - New Year, Same Story: Yet More Massacres and Rights Abuses Targeting Muslims


20-26 January 2014

Weekly Highlights

New Year, Same Story: Yet More Massacres and Rights Abuses Targeting Muslims

It is still only January, and already 2014 has seen a disturbing resurgence of the anti-Muslim violence and rights abuses that afflicted Burma throughout 2012 and 2013 and tarnished the ongoing political reforms. According to The Arakan Project, on 13 January, at least 40 Rohingya Muslim women and children in Du Char Yar Tan Village in southern Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, were killed by local police officials and Arakanese Buddhists, with others reportedly raped. As a result of the violence, hundreds are now displaced. Furthermore, Fortify Rights has confirmed mass arrests of Rohingya men and boys in Maungdaw Township, in breach of their fair trial rights and right to liberty.

However, the Burma Government has denied that such killings have taken place, despite admitting that clashes did occur between Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists, and journalists have been barred from the area. The US has called for a proper investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable, as has UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos has also called upon the Burma Government to immediately launch an impartial investigation into these events and to respect the rights of those arrested and detained. Burma Campaign UK has called for an international investigation into the violence, and Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have demanded immediate investigations by the Burma Government.

There have been other recent developments that have worrying implications for Muslims throughout Burma: in Mandalay, Buddhist monks have formed a new association to "safeguard religion." Moreover, discriminatory public speeches against Muslims by Buddhist monks are becoming increasingly prevalent, as witnessed by certain human rights activists across the country. Furthermore, there have been reports of doctors at Sittwe hospital refusing Muslim patients on the grounds that Buddhists have threatened to kill them and that their safety cannot be guaranteed.

A number of urgent steps need to be taken. First, the Burma authorities urgently need to establish the rule of law across the country. On an immediate level, this involves ensuring that the investigation which the Burma Government has promised is a full, proper and transparent investigation into all instances of violence, discrimination and abuses of human rights, and the bringing to justice of those involved, including state officials and representatives of security agencies to the extent that they are perpetrators or complicit. On a broader level, the establishment of an independent, competent, non-compliant and non-corrupt judiciary is urgently required, so as to ensure accountability for serious crimes, create a reliable mechanism for victims to secure justice and redress, protect human rights, and combat impunity and thereby deter future crimes.

Second, rigorous inter-racial, inter-faith, inter-communal dialogue is necessary to ensure that different communities can live in peace together and that divided communities can become united once again, to the benefit of everyone in Burma. While mistrust, suspicion and resentment poison communities and the country as a whole, it is highly likely that such instances of serious violence will continue to flare up time and again. The Burma Government must commit to such dialogue to show that it is doing its absolute best to try to prevent such violence from happening again.

Third, human rights are universal, and protection of all people within a country's borders is the responsibility of the government, regardless of race, nationality or religion. The Burma Government must demonstrate its political will to solve the problem by acceding to all relevant international human rights covenants, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thereby protecting and promoting respect for the human rights of all people in Burma. It then must abide by its legal obligations by ensuring that such law is implemented on the ground.

The Burma Government needs to address these three points as an absolute priority, for the anti-Muslim violence and ongoing humanitarian fallout – including widespread human trafficking of Rohingya people – is one of the most pressing crises facing Burma. Without addressing the problem, genuine national reconciliation and lasting peace cannot be achieved, and a lack of action will betray a lack of concern and interest on the part of the Burma Government, Parliament, civil society and policy-makers. Parts of the international community are quite rightly speaking up; it should, however, make future aid, investment and engagement with Burma conditional upon genuine efforts to resolve the problem. With Burma currently holding the ASEAN Chair, now is the time to be pressuring Burma to take action, for otherwise it will rapidly lose its credibility and legitimacy, which it has only recently started to taste for the first time in decades.

News Highlights

Government to allow international observers to inspect Du Chee Yar Tan village in Arakan State where at least 40 Rohingya men, women and children were killed this month while Médecins Sans Frontières says it treated 22 people who were wounded during the massacre

Inside Burma

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi travels to Karen State, speaking in from to tens of thousands of supporters about the need for constitutional reform

Speaker of Parliament Shwe Mann says he supports amending the constitution to allow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to run for President, but says that it is not the only amendment to be prioritized

Parliament delays passing the controversial Printers and Publishers Registration Bill, saying that more time should be spent reviewing the legislation but approves a bill amending the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law, which affects voting protocol among MPs and prioritizes two finance bills, the Anti-Money Laundering Bill and the Anti-Terrorism Bill

Lower House of Parliament approves the controversial Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Bill

Ethnic armed groups meet at Karen National Union base to discuss the nationwide ceasefire agreement and specifically the disagreement over including the word 'revolution'

United Wa State Army is absent from the ethnic armed groups conference in Karen State because of "language barriers", but expresses solidarity with ethnic leaders for a nationwide ceasefire agreement

Local aid workers say that at least 7 civilians in Namlim Pa and Mungding Pa villages, Kachin State, were killed by Burma Army troops in the three months before they withdrew from the area, some of whom were tortured

A member of the Committee for Scrutinizing Political Prisoners says there are still 33 political prisoners in the country's jails


Australia and Burma further military ties as Australia appoints a defence attaché to be based in Rangoon


Burma to sign the United Nations Convention Against Torture in September 2014 at the United Nations General Assembly (Burmese)

World Bank pledges US$2 billion in development aid for projects including energy supply and healthcare

UK Business Ambassador for Agriculture, James Townshend, calls for clarity about land titles


Hermit Myanmar Must Come out of its Shell
By The Nation

Myanmar's Minorities Face Multi-faced Jeopardy
By Tim Heinemann
The Asia Times Online

Latest from the Blog

The Burma Army and its Language of Aggression
By Burma Partnership


Over 500 farmers from across Burma protest in downtown Rangoon against land confiscation and the trend of being charged for trespass for being on their own land, two of whom are arrested and charged under section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law

Burma Rivers Network criticizes plans for 6 dams on the Salween River for lacking social and environmental impact assessments as well as the approval of local communities

Statements and Press Releases

Civil Society Comments on World Bank Telecom Sector Reform Project
By 61 civil society organizations from Burma

Myanmar: Fresh Charges Under Draconian Anti-Protest Law
By Amnesty International

New Letter Writing Campaign For Political Prisoners
By Burma Campaign UK

International Investigation Needed Into Killings In Rakhine State
By Burma Campaign UK

Religious Freedom Violations Continue for Chin Christians
By Chin Human Rights Organization

Myanmar: End Mass Arrests of Muslim Men and Boys in Rakhine State, Protect At-Risk Communities
By Fortify Rights International

Burma: Communal Violence Undercuts Rights Gains
By Human Rights Watch

Burma: Investigate New Killings of Rohingya
By Human Rights Watch

"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied"; Demand for Unconditional and Immediate Release of Human Rights Activist Ms. Bawk Jar
By Legal Aid Network

Pillay Calls for Killings in Northern Rakhine State to be Investigated
By United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay

Statement on Myanmar
By United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos

Civil Society in Burma Expresses Human Rights Concerns about World Bank Telecom Project
By US Campaign for Burma


The State of Freedom of Religion or Belief for Chin in Burma/Myanmar 2013
By Chin Human Rights Organization

Freedom in the World 2014: Burma
By Freedom House

World Report 2014: Burma
By Human Rights Watch

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