Rights activists have called for international monitors to safeguard the lives of thousands of Muslim Rohingya in Burma’s western Rakhine State following this week’s deadly sectarian violence.
“We are begging international observers to come and witness what is actually happening – to stop the violence and attacks on innocent civilians,” Mohammad Nawsim, secretary of the Rohingya Human Rights Association based in Bangkok, told IRIN, the UN humanitarian news service.
His call comes during a week of serious clashes erupted between Muslim Rohingya and ethnic (mainly Buddhist) Rakhine across eight Rakhine townships (Kyaukpyu, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon, Pauktaw, Ramree and Rathedaung) on Oct. 21.
The latest displacements bring the number of refugees now in camps in Rakhine State to more than 100,000, putting a further strain on ongoing assistance by the government, the UN, and its partners on the ground, said IRIN.
It said timely action and unhindered access are critical for life-saving assistance to reach those in need, according to the UN, which said it is having difficulty accessing all those in need.
“As a clear benchmark, there should be unfettered 'round the clock' international access,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), including the presence of a UN human rights monitoring office in the country. “This is a top-level critical issue that needs to be addressed.”
On Oct. 27, Human Rights Watch released satellite imagery it had received showing extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya area of the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu - one of several areas of new violence and displacement and where a major pipeline carrying Burmese gas to China begins.
“There has been no serious drive to prosecute those who have been instigating this hatred and violence,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an advocacy organization for the Rohingya.
The government-owned New Light of Myanmar said this week the region “is under control.” According to the authorities, there are now 5,000 police officers deployed, as well as 1,000 border security forces. Additionally, the Burmese army reportedly has 10,000 troops in the region.
Lewa noted, however, that even during the ongoing state of emergency, monks were allowed to demonstrate last week, basically promoting hatred by demanding the expulsion of Muslims, said IRIN.
"People in power, people in authority need to be taking a strong stance to not tolerate this any more," Lewa said.
Earlier, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said the international community should ensure that “human rights considerations remain at the forefront of its engagement with Myanmar during this period of transition.”