Myanmar Blocks UN Rohingya Fact Finding Mission.
Muslim minorities in Burma, in particular the 1.2 million ethnic Rohingya, continue to face rampant and systemic human rights violations. Outbreaks of violence in Maungdaw district in northern Rakhine State escalated following an October 9 2016 attack on three border outposts that left nine police officers dead. Asserting that both the initial and subsequent attacks were carried out by armed Rohingya militants, the government initiated “clearance operations” to locate the alleged attackers while locking down the area, denying access to humanitarian aid groups, independent media, and rights monitors. The security operations led to numerous reports of serious abuses by government security forces against Rohingya villagers, including summary killings, rape and other sexual violence, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, and arson. The military employed helicopter gunships during a series of clashes beginning on November 11. At time of writing, the government said it had arrested over 300 alleged suspects. Local groups reported the use of torture and a number of deaths in custody. Satellite imagery in November revealed widespread fire-related destruction in Rohingya villages, with a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw district.
Government travel restrictions placed on humanitarian agencies have led to critical food insecurity and malnutrition, and an estimated 30,000 Muslim villagers remain displaced. The government has continually failed to adequately or effectively investigate abuses against the Rohingya, and did not act on recommendations to seek UN assistance for an investigation into the violence. The ongoing crisis in Maungdaw represents the most serious and widespread violence against the Rohingya since the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out in June and October 2012. Four years after the 2012 violence, about 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in camps in Rakhine State. Humanitarian conditions for both remaining IDPs and newly resettled persons remain dire due to restrictions on movement and lack of access to livelihoods and basic services.
The effective denial of citizenship for the Rohingya—who are not recognised on the official list of 135 ethnic groups eligible for full citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law—has facilitated enduring rights abuses, including restrictions on movement; limitations on access to health care, livelihood, shelter, and education; arbitrary arrests and detention; and forced labor. Travel is severely constrained by authorisation requirements, security checkpoints, curfews, and strict control of IDP camp access. Such barriers compound the health crisis caused by poor living conditions, severe overcrowding, and limited health facilities. The government refuses to use the term Rohingya, which the group self-identifies as but is rejected by nationalist Buddhists in favour of the term “Bengali,” which implies illegal migrant status in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi refers to the group as the “Muslim Community in Rakhine State,” and has requested that international stakeholders, including the United States, European Union, and United Nations, follow suit.
The new Burmese government established two bodies to address sectarian tensions in Rakhine State—a government committee and a nine-member national/international advisory commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which initiated its year-long research mandate in September. Credit: Human Rights Watch World Report 2017 on Myanmar.
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