While human rights is a huge concern for many countries, human rights in Burma faces major obstacles as the Burmese military continues to commit abuses against civilians.
According to Sky News, a UN special envoy says human rights remains the greatest challenge facing the Burmese administration. The UN has received a flux of reports about the discriminatory and arbitrary responses by security forces, including their instigation of and involvement in clashes against civilians. Clashes between the Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities have left over 100,000 homeless and 78 people dead (some reports report a higher death count).
The escalation of violence and lack of human rights in Burma began on May 28, when an Arakan woman was raped and killed in the town of Ramri allegedly by three Muslim men. According to a Human Rights Watch report, in response to the attack, a large group of Arakan villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board, where local police and soldiers stood by and watched the killings without any intervention.
On June 8, the violence escalated even further when thousands of Rohingya rioted in Maungdaw town after Friday prayers, destroying Arakan property and killing an unknown number of Arakan residents. While the violence itself is horrifying, the more horrifying issue is that the Burmese authorities provided no protection and did not appear to have taken any special measures to preempt the violence.
Burmese President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency, transferring civilian power to the Burmese army in affected areas of the state on June 10 in fear of the violence spreading. The transfer of power from the civilians to the Burmese army created a wave of concerted violence by various state security forces against Rohingya communities. In one example of the concentrated violence, the Narzi quarter of Burma, which holds the largest Muslim area in Sittwe and is home to 10,000 Muslims, was burned to the ground by Arakan mobs who set fire to their homes on June 12 while the police and paramilitary Lon Thein forces opened fire on the Muslim civilians with live ammunition. There have also been mass killings, looting, and mass arrests against the Rohingya population. Due to the growing violence in the region, the Arakan leaders and members of the Arakan community in Sittwe have called for the forced displacement of the Muslim community from the city.
While the most recent violence of the Rohingya population has recently grabbed the United Nations attention, as the UN Security Council will hear from UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Rohingya people have been the subject of human rights concerns for many years. In its 1982 Citizen Act, Burma denied the Rohingya community citizenship, although many have lived in Rakhine State for centuries. Moreover, while there are an estimated 800,000 to one million Rohingyas live in Rakhine; they are also denied the right to own property.
Quintana’s press release includes accusations of the government troops participating in the killing and rape of Rohingyas. However, Quintana emphasized that he received reports of violations being committed by all parties in the conflict and added that all sides need to reflect on their stances with one another and end the violence.
Human Rights in Burma Faces Major Obstacles: Violence Against Muslim Rohingya Communities.