[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday released a 56-page document [report, PDF; press release] accusing Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community in June. “The Government Could Have Stopped This”: Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan State alleges that government security forces committed killings, rape and mass arrests following an outbreak of sectarian violence in western Rakhine State. The 56-page report describes clashes of mobs of Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddists in the capital city Sittwe and surrounding areas, with police and army forces standing by and watching as villages were razed and an unknown number of people were killed. Although the army eventually quashed the fighting, HRW claims they failed to protect the Rohingya and Rakhine from attacking each other and then targeted the Rohingya with brutal violence and mass roundups following the episode. The report is based on 57 interviews conducted in June and July with affected Rakhine, Rohingya, and others in Burma and in Bangladesh. HRW further contends that current government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left many of the over 100,000 people there displaced and in serious need of food, shelter and medical care. With the report HRW is calling on government authorities to end abuses by their forces, ensure humanitarian access and permit independent international monitors to visit affected areas and investigate abuses.
Myanmar has been unsuccessful in resolving the sectarian violence prevalent in the country despite attempts by its President Thein Sein [BBC profile; official website, in Burmese] to bring peace to the communities. Earlier this month, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] Melissa Fleming reported that 10 UN staff and aid workers had been arrested [JURIST report] in the northwestern Rakhine state and three of them are facing unknown criminal charges. In June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] had urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to provide basic food and shelter needs to refugees from Myanmar after finding refugee abuse. Earlier in June, HRW also called on [JURIST report] Bangladesh to open its borders to Myanmar refugees a day after it demanded Myanmar ensure the safety of communities in the Arakan State subject to the violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims. 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.