BANGKOK Aug 1 Myanmar security forces killed,
raped or carried out mass arrests of Rohingya Muslims after
deadly sectarian riots in the northeast in June, a rights group
said on Wednesday, adding the authorities had done little to
prevent the initial unrest.
Aid workers were blocked and in some cases arrested, and
Rohingyas bore the brunt of a government crackdown in Rakhine
state after a week of arson and machete attack by both ethnic
Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas, New York-based Human Rights
Watch said in a report.
Based on 57 interviews with Rakhines and Rohingyas, the
report seeks to shed light on a conflict that exposed
deep-rooted communal animosity and put the spotlight on promises
by the civilian government in office since 2011 to protect human
rights after decades of brutal army rule.
"Burmese security forces failed to protect the Arakan
(Rakhine) and Rohingya from each other and then unleashed a
campaign of violence and mass round-ups against the Rohingya,"�
said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"The government claims it is committed to ending ethnic
strife and abuse, but recent events in Arakan State demonstrate
that state-sponsored persecution and discrimination persist."
Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said on Monday the
authorities had exercised "maximum restraint" in restoring law
and order and that the rioting was not fuelled by religious
He rejected what he said were attempts to "politicise and
internationalise the situation as a religious issue", adding
that the government was eager to promote "racial harmony among
In veiled criticism of the United States and European Union,
which praised the government for its handling of the unrest,
Adams said the international community had been "blinded by a
romantic narrative of sweeping change" in Myanmar.
The former Burma has a diverse ethnic and religious make-up,
but the Rohingya Muslims are not included by the government.
There are at least 800,000 Rohingyas in the country but they are
not recognised as one of its ethnic groups.
Neighbouring Bangladesh does not accept them and pushed
boatloads back out to sea when they tried to flee the unrest.
Myanmar President Thein Sein said in June the government was
only responsible for third-generation Rohingyas whose families
had arrived before independence in 1948 and that it was
impossible to accept those who had "illegally entered" Myanmar.
He recommended that the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR
take care of them in camps or resettle them in third countries.
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres replied it could only resettle
refugees that fled from one country to another.
The riots followed two brutal incidents in Rakhine state:
the May 28 rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by three Rohingya
males, who were sentenced to death, and the June 3 lynching in
response of 10 non-Rohingya Muslims travelling on a bus.
Human Rights Watch said police and troops did not intervene
to stop the mobs from beating the Muslims to death. During the
riots that followed, it said some Rohingyas who tried to flee or
put out fires at their homes were shot at by paramilitaries.
It called for the government to end abuses, grant full
humanitarian access and invite in international monitors. Access
to the area remains restricted.
Thein Sein is in a tight spot. Concessions towards the
Rohingyas could prove unpopular among the general public, but
perceived ill-treatment risks angering Western countries that
have eased sanctions in response to human rights reforms.
Minister of Border Affairs Thein Htay says 858 people have
been detained for involvement in the violence, including five
UNHCR staff and a U.N. World Food Programme employee. It was
unclear how many of the total were Rohingya or ethnic Rakhine.
The Foreign Ministry has said 77 people died and 109 were
injured during the violence, and nearly 5,000 homes burnt down.
(Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Editing by
Alan Raybould and Nick Macfie)