Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Rights Group Accuses Myanmar in Ethnic Cleansing

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Rights Group Accuses Myanmar in Ethnic Cleansing

Article excerpt

A report by Human Rights Watch says the government took part in a systematic campaign of violence against Rohingya Muslims last year and encouraged anti-Muslim violence by Buddhists.

Human Rights Watch released a report Monday accusing Myanmar's government of involvement in ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year.

The report said that the government had taken part in a systematic campaign of violence against the Rohingya and that it had been complicit in destroying mosques. It also said that the government had encouraged anti-Muslim violence by Buddhists in Rakhine -- also known as Arakan -- where many Rohingya have been forced from their land and have had to resettle elsewhere.

Violence in October was "organized, incited, and committed by local Arakanese political party operatives, the Buddhist monkhood, and ordinary Arakanese, at times directly supported by state security forces," the report said.

Human Rights Watch said that the government authorities had had advance warning of an attack that took the lives of more than 70 Rohingya in October. The report said that the small number of police officers and soldiers dispatched to the scene had actually assisted in the killings by disarming Rohingya. It said that 28 children had been hacked to death during the violence.

The report comes as Myanmar and Western countries have been repairing their long-frayed ties, with President Barack Obama having traveled to the country in November, a visit that he used to welcome the new dialogue while prodding the government to quicken its march toward democratic overhauls. Foreign ministers of the European Union had planned to meet Monday to discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions against Myanmar.

But Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has struggled as it tries to become a more open society, with festering ethnic and religious tensions just below the surface. Animosities between Muslims and Buddhists were kept in check during the country's five decades of military rule. …

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