Burma’s President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in western Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state June 10 following an uprising by the Muslim Rohingya people, in which hundreds of homes of Buddhist villagers were put to the torch. At least seven have been killed since the incident that sparked the violence. The rape and murder of a Buddhist woman was blamed on Rohingyas; a bus full of Muslim pilgrims was then waylaid by a mob, who beat 10 of the passengers to death. The pilgrims, who were returning to Rangoon from Thetsa Masjid in the Rakhine town of Thandwe, appear not to have even been Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are a stateless people; the Burmese government maintains they are “illegal” immigrants from Bangladesh, and periodically rounds them up by the hundreds to deport them across the border—where, far from being welcomed, they languish in refugee camps. (See map.) In Burma, they face harsh restrictions on their movements, and are denied the right to have more than two children per family by law. “The government needs to recognize…that its discriminatory policies against the Rohingyas that [have] denied them citizenship and subjected them to such restrictions need to be lifted,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. “They need to be treated as people of Burma and recognized as such.” (Radio Australia, The Telegraph, June 11; AFP, June 9; The Voice of Rohingya, June 4)
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More evidence: ethnic cleansing of Burma’s Muslims
Burma’s President Thein Sein admitted this week to an unprecedented wave of ethnic violence targeting his country’s Rohingya population, destroying whole villages and large parts of towns. The acknowledgement follows the release of satellite images showing the severe scale of the destruction in one coastal town, where most–if not all–of the Rohingya population appears to have been displaced and their homes destroyed.
The pictures, acquired by Human Rights Watch, show destruction to the coastal town of Kyaukpyu. They reveal an area of destruction 35 acres in size in which some 811 buildings and boats have been destroyed. The images confirm reports of an outbreak of savage violence in the town last week. (The Guardian, Oct. 27)