Mounting, Uncontrolled Violence against 800,000 Muslims in Burma

Human Wrongs Watch

In the wake of renewed violence, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged authorities in Myanmar to take action “to bring an end to the lawlessness currently affecting the north of the Asian country’s Rakhine state.”

Internally displaced people in Myanmar sheltering in Shwe Zayti monastery, Sittwe, after being displaced from their homes in Rakhine. Photo: OCHA/Gemma Connell

“While the Secretary-General notes the clear recognition at the highest political levels in Myanmar of the need to contain this communal violence, he calls on the authorities to take urgent and effective action to bring under control all cases of lawlessness,” Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said on 25 October 2012.

Tens of People Killed, Hundreds of Homes Torched

According to media reports, Government officials have said that at least 56 people have been killed and hundreds of homes torched since Sunday [21 October] in Rakhine state, located in western Myanmar.

In June, serious disturbances – between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims – led to the Government declaring a state of emergency there. The violence reportedly left at least a dozen civilians dead and hundreds of homes destroyed, while internally displacing tens of thousands of people, the UN reported.

“The widening mistrust between the communities is being exploited by militant and criminal elements to cause large-scale loss of human lives, material destruction, displaced families as well as fear, humiliation and hatred affecting the people from all walks of life,” Nesirky noted in his statement to the media.

Stop Vigilante Attacks, Targeted Threats, Extremist Rhetoric – UN

He called for a stop to vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric, warning that if this is not done, “the fabric of social order could be irreparably damaged and the reform and opening up process being currently pursued by the government is likely to be jeopardized.”

“Myanmar is striving to be an example of tolerance and moderation in Asia and the world. Such events must not be allowed to tarnish its efforts,” Mr. Nesirky added. “The United Nations is ready to do whatever is necessary to alleviate the situation and bring tranquility and harmony to the region.”

In early October, four months after inter-communal violence erupted in Rakhine state, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had said that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) there continues to rise, with some 75,000 people living in camps and many more in need of humanitarian assistance.

Thousands of Civilians Displaced 

Four months after inter-communal violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to rise, the United Nations refugee agency said on 5 October 2012 , adding that some 75,000 people are currently living in camps and many more are in need of humanitarian assistance.

“Movement is still restricted in parts of Rakhine state, preventing some villagers from going to work, accessing markets, food supplies, health services and education,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.

“Out of desperation, people are leaving villages to seek food and medical assistance at the IDP camps.”

In June, violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the state of Rakhine, located in western Myanmar, led to the country’s Government declaring a state of emergency there, the UN reported.

75,000 People in Need of Humanitarian Aid

The figure of 75,000 people in need of humanitarian aid, provided by local authorities, is an increase on initial Government estimates of some 50,000 people displaced shortly after the unrest broke out in early June, according to UNHCR.

It added that a resurgence of violence in early August resulted in more than 4,000 people having their homes burned down, affecting thousands more.

The refugee agency, along with its humanitarian partners, has been advocating for greater humanitarian access and support for the most affected villages, including the towns of Sittwe, Kyauk Taw and Maungdaw.

“We hope that by delivering aid in places of origin, humanitarian agencies can help to prevent further displacement and make interventions that can facilitate the eventual return of IDPs,” Edwards said.

Emergency Temporary Shelters

UNHCR is distributing relief supplies for some 54,000 people in IDP sites. The supplies include plastic sheets, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets.

The agency is also supporting the construction of emergency temporary shelters that can house about 10,500 people, and continues to support delivery of basic assistance such as food, water and sanitation to Government-run IDP camps until the situation stabilizes sufficiently for them to return home.

Edwards added that despite the rising numbers of IDPs, some people whose houses were not damaged have returned to the town of Sittwe. He added that a “fragile calm” has returned, but the situation remains tense.

2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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