Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Weekly Highlights: Burma Must Find a Path to a More Tolerant Society

 

30 June - 6 July 2014

Weekly Highlights

Burma Must Find a Path to a More Tolerant Society


The streets of Mandalay, which just recently drew over 20,000 people in support of National League for Democracy and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society's joint campaign to amend Section 436 of the Constitution in support of democratic reform, remain deserted this last week as many business owners closed their shutters in fear, following serious unrest in the city. In the second largest city in Burma, violent mobs took over the streets, leaving two people dead and dozens injured. Some stated that over "70 police were here but did nothing," as Buddhist mobs torched a school in a Muslim area.  Ironically the international community has mostly stayed silent in the wake of the recent events when their actions are needed to protect the people of Burma, especially the most vulnerable communities, more than ever.

The series of events began on 1 July, just hours after the extremist Buddhist monk, and leader of the anti-Muslim 969 movement, Wirathu, picked up a questionable post from the social media site Facebook that highlighted an alleged rape of a Buddhist woman committed by two Muslim brothers. According to David Mathieson, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Wirathu, who is based in Mandalay, appeared to have played "a pivotal role" in inciting the unrest, fanning tensions by spreading accusations with religious inferences, while calling for action against the two Muslim brothers who own a teashop in the same area where his monastery is located. 

Within hours, hundreds of Buddhists, including monks, gathered in front of the teashop, despite the lack of credible evidence. Even though a thousand police personnel had been deployed to stop the riots, two people, one Muslim and one Buddhist man, were violently murdered and dozens more were injured in the four days following the initial outbreak, while a nighttime curfew is still in place nearly a week after the beginning of the violence.

During the funeral of the Buddhist man, the hearse was decorated with a banner designed to incite even more violence as it drove through Pathein Gyi Township, just outside Mandalay. The banner depicted a picture of the deceased man in a pool of blood with a caption stating that the man was "brutally killed by Muslims on the night of July 2." The procession was joined by a mob of angry Buddhists wielding swords and bamboo sticks, who set fire to a Muslim section of the cemetery and shouted "we're going to kill all the Muslims."The police were not present at the funereal procession. Though the police guarded the predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in the city, they did not make any efforts to disarm the Buddhist mob with weapons.

This recent violence in Mandalay is yet another chapter of a history of sectarian violence fueled by pre-existing stereotypes about Muslims, and set ablaze by political tension in Burma. This ideologically complex and deeply rooted social, political and cultural issue requires the humanity of all people of Burma, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion, to join together to end the violence that is spreading throughout the country and ensure that the rights of all people are respected and protected.

Most importantly there must be a political action by the State against such sectarian violence. However, there is a distressing pattern in the way the police handle these violent outbreaks considering that last year, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana, cited reports of "State involvement in some of the acts of violence, and of instances where the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces have been standing by while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes, including by well organised ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs." According to the former Special Rapporteur, "this may indicate direct involvement by some sections of the State or implicit collusion and support for such actions." If Burma hopes to transition towards democracy, they must not look the other way as these deadly violent acts take place with impunity.

While the international community is focused on the seemingly positive reforms, the situation of Muslim Rohingya population in Arakan State has deteriorated to a point where some say elements of genocide are taking place as they remain in internally displaced camps in deplorable conditions, still without sufficient humanitarian aid. So far in Mandalay, only eight people have been arrested for the sectarian violence, which started nearly a week ago. More worrying is the extremist Buddhist movement growing across the country and its propaganda and hate speech against Muslims, and the government has taken no measures against such movement. The international community, including investors, donors and governments, must demand a clear account as to why the Mandalay regional government, as well as the national government, is unable to take action against the culprits. As stated by United to End Genocide in their call to stop the sectarian violence and hate speech in Burma, the international community must "make it clear that the government of Burma will be held fully accountable for how it responds."

News Highlights

Burma joins the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and will have 18 months to produce its' first report

 

Inside Burma

In Mae Sot, Thailand, United Nationalities Federal Council hold talks with political groups including 88 Generation Peace and Open Society and the National League for Democracy (NLD) to discuss the nationwide peace accord and amendment of the 2010 Constitution

As NLD announces they have over 3.3million signatures for their petition to change the constitution, parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann states the campaign will have no influence over parliament's process on constitutional change

In Nan Shwe Mone village, Kawkareik township, Karen National Union (KNU) to open a new clinic offering free medical treatment and healthcare services to villagers nearby, which is also a second free clinic built by KNU in that area

In Rangoon, over 20 Karen lawyers from all over Burma holds a meeting to discuss the founding of a lawyer network that provides legal assistance to Karen community facing legal issues related to human rights, women's rights and land disputes

Farmers from four villages in Tada-U district, Mandalay Region, get back 5,000 acres (20 sq.km) of farmland originally seized and confiscated by Burma army and vow to continue fighting for the return of the remaining land

Unity journal closes due to financial problems, stemming from the arrest of the CEO of the Unity journal and four journalists, who are facing charges for reporting on a chemical weapons factory

DVB video journalist Zaw Pe arrested on charges of "trespassing" and "disturbing a civil servant on duty" is released from Thayet prison after Magwe regional court reduced his sentence from one year to three months

Burma Army and Arakan villagers from Marawaddy village destroy properties of Rohingyas - such as betel farms - in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State

 

Regional

Burma Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing visits Thailand to promote bilateral cooperation on defence, border and military affairs

Thai military government announces that all migrant workers in Thailand must apply for  temporary passports and work permits within two months after receiving temporary residential status and that those who fail to do so will be arrested while rules and regulations in the refugee camps become more strictly enforced, restricting movement

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina tells parliament that her government is trying to send registered Rohingya refugees back to Burma

International

Burma Campaign UK says Britain's Ministry of Defence has finally agreed to release the details of information as to the training given to Burma Army, but expressing their concern the information hadn't yet been released in full

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visits Burma to show support for Burma's political reform

US Department of Justice fines French bank, BNP Paribas $9 billion US for breaching trade sanctions, including moving money through US financial institutions that came from sanctioned entities in Burm

Opinion

What Bishop must do in Burma
By David Scott Mathieson
The Sydney Morning Herald

Violence Gives the Lie to Burma's 'Reforms'
By Aung Zaw
The Irrawaddy

Latest from the Blog

Now is the Time to Act, Sexual Violence Must End in Burma
By Burma Partnership

Actions

Take Action! Call the US Secretary of State's office and Burma embassy in the US to remind them that it is the responsibility of the government to protect all citizens including Muslims

Statements and Press Releases

ညီညြတ္ေသာ တိုင္းရင္းသားလူမ်ဳိးမ်ား ဖက္ဒရယ္ေကာင္စီ (UNFC) ႏွင့္ ျပည္တြင္း ဒီမိုကေရစီ အင္အားစုမ်ား ေတြ႔ဆုံေဆြးေႏြးပြဲ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကျငာခ်က္
By 88 Generation Peace and Open Society

Calls for DFID Burma Census Inquiry Top 1,000
By Burma Campaign UK

Statement on Anti Muslims Violence in Mandalay
By Burmese Muslim Association

U.S. Companies Report on Burma/Myanmar
By EIRIS Conflict Risk Network

Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall Faces Court in First 'Natural Fruit' Hearing 2nd July, Insists No Meaningful Negotiation Likely

By Finnwatch

New Report: Asian Governments Must Combat Hate Crime Towards Minorities
By Minority Rights Group International

ဇူလိုင္လ (၁)ရက္ေန႔ညပိုင္းက မႏၱေလးၿမိဳ႕တြင္ ျဖစ္ပြားခဲ့ေသာ လူစုလူေ၀းျဖစ္စဥ္မ်ား နွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ အမ်ဳိးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႔၏ သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By National League for Democracy

Burma: End the Prosecution of Rohingya Human Rights Defender Kyaw Hla Aung
By Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Altsean-Burma

Outbreak of Religious Violence and Hate Speech in Burma Must Be Stopped
By United to End Genocide

Reports

Myanmar's Rosewood Crisis
By Environmental Investigation Agency

Myanmar: Comprehensive Solutions Needed for Recent and Long-term IDPs Alike
By Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2014
By Minority Rights Group International

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