RAKHINE – A Burma rights group has accused the government of keeping a systematic persecution of Rohingya Muslim minority across the country, backed by the country’s Buddhist monks and ultra-nationalist civilian groups.
“The transition to democracy has allowed popular prejudices to influence how the new government rules, and has amplified a dangerous narrative that casts Muslims as an alien presence in Buddhist-majority Burma,” the independent Burma Human Rights Network said in a report released on Tuesday, September 5 and cited by Reuters.
The group confirmed that the persecution of Muslims is on the rise across Burma and not confined to the northwestern state of Rakhine, where recent violence has sent nearly 90,000 Muslim Rohingya fleeing.
The report draws on more than 350 interviews in more than 46 towns and villages over an eight-month period since March 2016.
Burma’s government made no immediate response to the report, as authorities claimed that security forces in Rakhine are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists”.
Besides Rohingya Muslims, the report also examines the wider picture of Muslims of different ethnicities across Burma following waves of communal violence in 2012 and 2013.
The report says many Muslims of all ethnicities have been refused national identification cards, while access to Islamic places of worship has been blocked in some places.
At least 21 villages around Burma have declared themselves “no-go zones” for Muslims, backed by the authorities, it said.
Satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch has revealed 700 buildings from the Rohingya Muslim village of Chein Khar Li have been destroyed by fire.
The treatment of Buddhist-majority Burma’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.
The number of those crossing the border, estimated at 120,000, surpassed the total of Rohingya who escaped Myanmar after a much smaller insurgent attack in October that set off a military operation beset by accusations of serious human rights abuses.
Rakhine State, one of Burma’s poorest regions, is home to an estimated 125,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims, the majority of whom remain confined to temporary camps following waves of deadly violence in 2012 between Buddhists and Muslims.
Described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Burma’s ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingyas, are facing a catalog of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants.
Burma’s government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya,” referring to them as “Bengalis.”
Construction of mosques and religious schools in the region was banned in 1962 when military rule was first established in the country.