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Myanmar forces supported anti-Muslim attacks| Rights group

BANGKOK – A leading international rights group today accused Myanmar security forces of supporting some of the brutal anti-Muslim violence last month that forced 35,000 people from torched homes. The allegations come one day before President Barack Obama visits after a year of unprecedented democratic reforms in the South-east Asian country.

Human Rights Watch said soldiers in some parts of western Rakhine state also tried to stop Buddhist attacks and protect Muslim civilians, known as Rohingya. But the group said the

government needs to do much more to protect the stateless minority, who are denied citizenship because they are considered foreigners from Bangladesh.

The New York-based rights group also released new satellite imagery detailing the extensive destruction of several Muslim areas, including a village attacked by Buddhist mobs armed with spears and bows and arrows where adults were beheaded and women and children killed.

Violence in June, and again late last month, has killed around 200 people on both sides and displaced more than 110,000 more, the vast majority of them Muslims. 

“The satellite images and eyewitness accounts reveal that local mobs, at times with official support, sought to finish the job of removing Rohingya from these areas,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.

“The central government’s failure to take serious action to ensure accountability for the June violence fostered impunity, and makes it responsible for later attacks not only when security forces were directly involved, but also when they weren’t,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s government on the charges. But The Associated Press has interviewed victims in Rakhine state who gave similar accounts, accusing security forces of taking part in the violence or of doing little to stop it.

On Friday, the United Nations announced it had received a letter from Myanmar President Thein Sein pledging to consider new rights for the Rohingya for the first time and condemning the “senseless violence” that has battered Rakhine state. But the letter stopped short of a full commitment that citizenship and other new freedoms would be granted, and gave no timeline.

The White House says Obama will press the matter Monday with Mr Thein Sein, along with demands to free remaining political prisoners as the nation transitions to democracy after a half-century of military rule that ended last year.

The UN has called the Rohingya – who are widely reviled by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar – among the most persecuted people on Earth.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship, even though many of their families have lived in Myanmar for generations. The government considers them to be illegal migrants from Bangladesh, but Bangladesh also rejects them, rendering them stateless.

The UN estimates that 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, where they face heavy-handed restrictions: They need permission to marry, have more than two children and travel outside of their villages. 

Source -AP-