Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged Bangladesh to open its borders [press release] to hundreds of refugees fleeing sectarian violence in neighboring Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Escalating violence between Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan State of Myanmar has put residents in the region at risk and has left an unknown number dead. Earlier this month, Bangladesh closed its borders in anticipation of large numbers of refugees from Myanmar. HRW urged the government of Bangladesh to provide assistance to the refugees and to permit humanitarian groups to enter the country and provide support:
By closing its border when violence in Arakan State is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk. Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives and provide them protection...Bangladesh can help itself by allowing immediate and full access to humanitarian agencies so they can provide life-saving assistance to desperate refugees.HRW urged foreign governments and humanitarian groups to provide support for refugees from Myanmar. The rights group also called for a "durable solution" to provide for new and old refugees, some of whom are already living in dire conditions within Bangladesh.
Earlier this week, HRW urged Myanmar to ensure the safety of communities [JURIST report] in the Arakan State. President Thein Sein [official website, in Burmese] issued a state of emergency in the area on Sunday, turning over police power to the Burmese Army, but HRW warned that without international overview, such intervention could make matters worse. Despite calls and demands by international communities to end the violence in Myanmar, the government has thus far failed to control the violence and protect civilians. In March, HRW reported that violence and rights abuses continue [JURIST report] in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin due to the conflict between Myanmar's armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). During the same month, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar urged the country to ensure the protection of human rights [JURIST report]. In November, Human rights group Partners Relief and Development issued a report which alleged that the army may be committing war crimes [JURIST report] including torture and forced labor against ethnic communities in Kachin state.