Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Evidence of 'ethnic cleansing' in Myanmar: HRW

An international human rights group says it has evidence of "ethnic cleansing" in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia the group has evidence of mass graves and forced displacement in the state, also known as Arakan state.

"We have actually found crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing taking place in Arakan state," he said.

He says their report compiling the evidence is based on more than 100 interviews.

"We're finding very significant abuses," he said.

"Organisation of violence by political party operatives, leaders of the Arakan state, along with the Buddhist monkhood and Arakanese communities.

"This was a planned action, October. This was not something that was communal violence, that the government has been trying to portray."
Two outbreaks of Buddhist-Muslim violence last year left more than 200 people dead and 125,000 displaced, most of them Rohingya, according to government figures cited by HRW.

Human Rights Watch's report was released on the same day the European Union met to consider lifting most of the remaining sanctions against Myanmar.

As expected, the ministers agreed to remove the sanctions, but maintain the arms embargo.

Myanmar presidential spokesman Ye Htut has accused HRW of timing its report to coincide with the EU sanctions decision.

"The government will not pay attention to such a one-sided report," he said in comments posted on his Facebook page.

He said the authorities would instead await the findings of an official commission set up to investigate the violence, the release of which has been delayed several times.

Mr Robertson says the inquiry's delayed release of findings is a sign of how sensitive the issue is for Myanmar's government.

He says the move to lift sanctions is "premature and unfortunate" and will diminish the EU's leverage with the regime.

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