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Rights Groups Pressure Myanmar to Investigate Killing of 40 Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya IDP camp

The UN and Human Rights Watch want the government in Myanmar to investigate reported killings in the northern Rakhine State. It is alleged that more than 40 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan, between January 9 and 13. Further information indicates that 10 Rohingya men were detained during the same period and are experiencing harsh treatment while held.

“By responding to these incidents quickly and decisively, the Government has an opportunity to show transparency and accountability, which will strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, yesterday. “I also encourage the Government to provide humanitarian actors with access to the village to provide any assistance needed to the local population.”

Rohingya IDP camp
Rohingya IDP camp

Violence against Rohingya Muslims has continued with little sign of stopping. As a result, some 140,000 people are current displaced within Rakhine State. Attempts to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh have largely failed due to a lack of willingness by the Bangladeshi government to accept people fleeing. It is further complicated by the fact that 800,000 people in the state do not have citizenship.

A significant portion of the attacks have been carried out by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. Political leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has come under criticism for her lack of attention to the ongoing human rights violations. She refuted allegations of atrocities carried out against the Rohingya, in October.

“It’s not ethnic cleansing,” she said to the BBC. “What the world needs to understand [is]that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well.”

The opening of Myanmar to outsiders and the liberalization of its ruling class was met with widespread support. As a result, trade barriers were removed and international aid flowed into the struggling country. The sectarian violence in Rakhine state puts the gains made at risk, said Oxfam in a January report.

Rights based groups are increasingly concerned by the lack of control over the violence and apparent will to put it to an end. They worry that targeted attacks could quickly grow.

“Official discrimination against the Rohingya population and impunity for past abuses has created a fertile ground for new atrocities to take place.”

The alarm is backed by an academic evaluation. New analysis by researcher Jay Ulfelder shows that the greatest risk of the onset of a state-led mass killing episode is in Myanmar. The range of potential outcomes range significantly, but the average is far ahead of the nearest countries, Syria, Sudan and Egypt. He explained in a blog post that new data has yet to arrive on 2013 that will likely change the risk predictions.

Jay Ulfelder

According to HRW, the government of Myanmar initially dismissed reports of the recent killings. The lack of reaction is concerning, says the group, as it comes when people report that local police have been given the authority to arrest all Rohingya men above 10 years old. A statement by UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana was the one of the first international calls for the Myanmar government to investigate the killings.

Quintana recommended the use of impartial and independent teams to carry out the investigations. Like Pillay, he made the case for Maymar to seek transparency and accountability for what is happening in the country. Further pressure from the UN came from Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

“I ask the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to ensure the full protection of all civilians and to enable safe and continued access by humanitarian staff to the affected areas in order to assess needs and provide emergency assistance to all those affected by the recent violence,” she said.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]