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HRW urges Myanmar to protect communities from sectarian violence

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged [press release] Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to ensure the safety of communities in the Arakan State. According to HRW, the violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims creates a safety risk for the surrounding community leaving an unknown number dead. The violence began when earlier this month Arakan Buddhists attacked [BBC report] a bus of traveling Muslims, killing 10 people. The attack stemmed from anger about the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist girl that occurred in May. Elaine Pearson [official profile], deputy Asia director at HRW, warned about the potential worsening of the situation in Arakan. Although Myanmar's government announced its plan to investigate into the violence and President Thein Sein [official website, in Burmese] issued a state of emergency in the area, HRW says that without international overview such intervention could make matters worse. Pearson pointed out the record of violence committed by the Myanmar military in the Arakan State. Additionally, she called on the government to grant access to the area to international journalists, aid workers and diplomats.

Despite calls and demands by international communities to end the violence in Myanmar, the government has failed to control the violence and protect the victims of such. In March, HRW reported [JURIST report] that violence and rights abuses continue in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin due to the conflict between Myanmar's armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) [BBC backgrounder]. During the same month, Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile], the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar urged [JURIST report] the country to ensure the protection of human rights. In November, Human rights group Partners Relief and Development [advocacy website] issued [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF, graphic content] which alleged that the army may be committing war crimes including torture and forced labor against ethnic communities in Kachin state.

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