International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Press Release: Myanmar - Investigate Destruction of Religious Buildings

 

5 July 2016

 

For Immediate Release

Press Release

 

Myanmar: Investigate Destruction of Religious Buildings

Hold Perpetrators Accountable, Ensure Protection for Religious Minorities

(Yangon, July 5, 2016) – The Government of Myanmar should conduct a formal investigation into the recent destruction of religious buildings in Kachin State and Bago Region, 19 nongovernmental organizations in Myanmar said today in a statement. The statement represents a collective show of support from Myanmar civil society for victims of religiously motivated violence in the country.

On July 1, a violent assembly of people destroyed a Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village, Kachin State, and on June 23, a similar mob of people destroyed a mosque in Thaye Thamain village, Bago Region. In each of these cases, the authorities failed to hold perpetrators accountable.

"We expect the authorities to thoroughly and impartially investigate these crimes and ensure those responsible are held to account," said Khon Ja, an ethnic Kachin activist in Myanmar. "We don't want to see more of this violence. The culture of impunity in Myanmar must come to an end."

At approximately 3:30 pm on July 1, a group of people burned down a Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village in Kachin State's Hpakant Township. Last month, local Buddhist nationalists reportedly demanded that the Muslim community destroy the hall. After the Muslim community failed to heed the nationalists' order, a violent mob burned the structure to the ground and obstructed the work of fire fighters.

Following the incident, local authorities restricted access to a bridge leading to Lone Khin village and telecommunications in the area appeared to have been cut. At present, no arrests have been made.

"The people of Myanmar elected the National League for Democracy on the basis of its campaign to uphold rule of law and human rights for all," the statement reads. The 19 signatory organizations, including groups from Kachin State, Mandalay Region, and Yangon Region, "call on the Government of Myanmar to deliver on its promise."

The destruction of the prayer hall in Lone Khin occurred just eight days after a similar attack on a Muslim religious compound in Bago Region in central Myanmar.

On June 23, following a disagreement over a Facebook post, a group of people damaged several buildings and destroyed a mosque in Thaye Thamain village, Bago Region. Local resident Abdul Rashid reportedly sustained injuries to his waist and head. Following the attack, many Muslim residents fled Thaye Thamain.

On June 29, Bago Region Chief Minister Win Thein declared that no legal action would be taken against the perpetrators of the violence in Thaye Thamain village. Win Thein told the Myanmar Times, "If we take action on people, the situation will be bad." He added that the regional government would "supply aid to the Muslim people who suffered in the quarrel."

"We appreciate the new government and its reconciliation approach, which is an improvement upon the ways of the previous government," said Harry Myo Lin, executive director at Seagull. "However, it's essential that the authorities hold the perpetrators accountable and take proactive steps to deter more violence. We've recently seen a lot of unmitigated incitement to religious violence online and offline."

These recent violent incidents were not isolated events and reflect unchecked religious tension in Myanmar. A recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights details systemic human rights violations against religious minorities in Myanmar. The report points to the responsibility of the government to halt abuses against minorities and break the ongoing cycle of impunity.

"These acts of religious extremism aren't spontaneous," said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights. "The government needs to roll out a concerted effort to protect religious freedom and prevent future outbreaks of violence. It's the duty of everyone in Myanmar to ensure that communities of all faiths can practice their religion with freedom from fear."

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right to freedom of religion. States are further obligated to protect the rights of persons belonging to minority groups, including religious minorities, in line with the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination under international law.

"Myanmar's human rights obligations require the authorities to protect at-risk religious groups," said Shaivalini Parmar, Myanmar program officer at Civil Rights Defenders. "It's time for the government to stand up for religious minorities and take action against those perpetrating attacks."

For more information, please contact:

Khon Ja, +95.942.528.8899,
khonja2014@gmail.com

Harry Myo Lin, executive director, Seagull, +95.997.209.6900,
harrymdy@gmail.com

Shaivalini Parmar, Myanmar program officer, Civil Rights Defenders, +95.925.796.8008,
Shaivalini.Parmar@civilrightsdefenders.org

Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer, +1.202.503.8032 (US),
matthew.smith@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @matthewfsmith, @fortifyrights


Download the statement in English here.

Download the statement in Burmese here.


5 July 2016
 

Statement

 

End Impunity: A Call for Accountability for Crimes against Religious Minorities in Myanmar

By 19 Nongovernmental Organizations

On June 23, a violent group of people destroyed a mosque in Thaye Thamain village, Bago Region, and on July 1, a similar mob of people destroyed a Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village, Kachin State. In each of these cases, the authorities have failed to hold perpetrators accountable.

We, the undersigned organizations, call on the Government of Myanmar to protect the rights of religious minorities and ensure those responsible for the recent attacks on religious buildings are held to account.

The destruction of the mosque in Bago Region and prayer hall in Kachin State are not isolated events. A rising tide of religious intolerance has accompanied the opening of Myanmar to the outside world since 2012. Individuals and groups, some of whom identify with the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion—a group of extremist Buddhist monks and nationalists commonly known as Ma Ba Tha—have targeted Muslims with violence and hate crimes, threats, and intimidation with impunity. Extremists have used hate speech, harassment, and intimidation against members of civil society, interfaith peace activists, and others who have stood up for freedom of religion and expression.

By failing to properly investigate or prosecute perpetrators of these crimes, authorities in Myanmar are fostering a culture of impunity that is inconsistent with Myanmar's human rights obligations.

The people of Myanmar elected the National League for Democracy on the basis of its campaign to uphold rule of law and human rights for all. Today, we, the undersigned organizations, call on the Government of Myanmar to deliver on its promise.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the destruction of the Muslim places of worship in Lone Khin and Thaye Thamain villages and to ensure legal accountability for perpetrators.

We call upon the Government of Myanmar to take immediate action to ensure that all communities of faith in Myanmar are free to worship and practice their religion without fear or threats of violence.

We call upon all government officials in Myanmar to take every opportunity to reinforce the message that all peoples of Myanmar – regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation – are subject to the same laws and entitled to the same protections.

We recognize the challenges faced by the government to properly address religious discrimination, but the government can and should do more to end the cycle of impunity for religiously-motivated crimes. Continued acts of violence against Muslims in Myanmar indicate that the failure to hold perpetrators accountable has led to more, not less, violence against Muslims.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to live up to the aspirations of a democratic, human-rights-respecting Myanmar.

Signed

1. Action Group on Monitoring Communal Tensions

2. All Kachin Youth Union

3. Burma Campaign UK

4. Burma Partnership

5. Center for Youth and Social Harmony

6. Civil Rights Defenders

7. Election Observers Network – Mandalay

8. Equality Myanmar

9. Fortify Rights

10. Kachin Women's Association Thailand

11. Metta-Campaign

12. Metta-Campaign Youth

13. Myanmar Muslim Youth and Students

14. Network for Democracy and Development

15. Seagull

16. Smile Education and Development Foundation

17. Women's Peace Network Arakan

18. Yaung Zin Teachers Association

19. Yway Latt Yar Institute

Download the statement in Burmese here.

သေဘာထားေၾကညာခ်က္ ျမန္မာဘာသာကို ဤေနရာတြင္ ေဒါင္းလုပ္ရယူႏိုင္ပါသည္။

သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္ ျမန္မာဘာသာကို ဤေနရာတြင္ ေဒါင္းလုပ္ရယူႏိုင္ပါသည္။


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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."