Current News

    An Overview of Myanmar’s unfolding pogroms: Anti-Muslim Violence and Destruction

    • What is the
    government doing as a plan to stop the violence (genocide) against the Burmese
    Muslims?

    • What will the government do in order to rebuild
    their homes and mosques and reviving their livelihoods?

    • Why have federal, state and local governments
    manifestly failed to protect Muslim citizens of Myanmar?
    Anti Muslim leaflets and pamphlets have been
    spreading throughout Myanmar since the escalation of the violence in Rakhine
    state that began in June last year (2012). During the period of the 20th to
    28th of March 2013, 28 Mosques were burned down and thousands of Muslim homes
    destroyed by so-called “Buddhist” extremists.

    This is not a
    communal conflict – this is an attack against Muslim people, Myanmar’s pogroms.

    With no
    exception, the violence was overwhelmingly committed by the well-organized
    “Buddhist” mobs against Muslim families and communities, including children and
    babies. According to the UN, since the anti-Muslim violence erupted on 20 March
    the resultant displaced victims are estimated to be about 12,000, and the
    majority of them are Burmese Muslims.

    The attackers
    often use the slogan and logo of 969 which is a corruption of Buddhist
    teachings, incompatible with the Buddhist message of universal loving kindness.

    Dr. Maung Zarni
    of the London School of Economics, describes the 969 group as

    Burmese men in monks’ robes, who have been using
    Hitlerian tactics of e-mongering as they spread Islamophobia – they are
    Buddhist neo-Nazis.

    The attacks
    started in Meiktila, which had a long-standing and thriving Muslim community,
    and spread to other towns in Mandalay Division and Western Pegu Division.
    Thirteen towns were attacked and mosques and Muslim property were destroyed;
    13,000 people were forced to flee from Meiktila alone.

    We estimate
    that 70 to 100 Muslim were killed during these anti-Muslim attacks. According
    to
     informationcollected
    on the ground, the state authorities and security forces present neither took
    adequate action nor provided leadership to try to stop the violence. According
    to eye witnesses, the attackers launched their assaults in full view of the
    police. The attackers were not local – they were brought in from outside and
    functioned as well organized mobs. There are multiple reports that in some
    areas, the attackers drove bulldozers during the assaults, which they used to
    maximize the destruction of houses and mosques.

    The Wall Street
    Journal, 26 March 2013, expressed the following concerns:

    As many as 10% of the 60 million people living in
    Myanmar are Muslim, a relatively small number. Analysts such as Maung Zarni, a
    visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, worry that Buddhist
    nationalist extremists are using old animosities to
     gain leverage in the new Myanmar that is emerging after the army ceded
    power to a nominally civilian administration in 2011—and that this could badly
    destabilize a geographically significant country courted by both China and the
    U.S

    On March 28,
    President Thein Sein appeared on television in a national
     address regarding the violence in Meiktila. He said that “political
    opportunists and religious extremists” were behind the riots. He affirmed his
    “…commitment to individual freedoms, civil liberties for all and democracy” and
    emphasized “finding common ground to coexist peacefully while upholding our
    democratic ideals.” He claimed that, “All perpetrators of violence will be
    prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

    The President
    made a similar claim regarding the Rakhine violence last year. Yet the
    perpetrators of the violence against Muslims in Rakhine State have not been
    brought to justice. Peace has not get been restored and impunity to cause
    numerous forms of harm to Burmese Muslims across the country continues.

    As a matter of
    fact, the quasi-civilian government and security forces have decades of
    experience and significant expertise in information gathering and highly
    skilled intelligence staff.

    A most deeply
    disturbing aspect of the pogroms is the reported involvement of the State’s institutions,
    especially the law enforcement agencies including local civil administrations,
    security forces and the military.

    Quoting the
    United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana,
    the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma and wire news agencies s such reported
    thus:

    “I have
    received reports of State involvement in some of the acts of violence,” Tomas
    Ojea Quintana said in a statement.

    He also pointed
    to “instances where the military, police and other civilian law enforcement
    forces have been standing by while atrocities have been committed before their
    very eyes, including by well organised ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs.

    “This may
    indicate direct involvement by some sections of the State or implicit collusion
    and support for such actions.”

    Similarly, in a
    29-March-dated essay entitled Kristallnacht in Myanmar, the New York Times
    unearthed the fact that the violence against the Muslims in Meikhtila took
    place, un-obstructed, in the presence of Myanmar security troops. The Times
    reporter wrote:

    When on Thursday I asked a junior police officer in
    Meiktila how all of this could have happened in the presence of government
    forces, he said, with distinct unease: “We received an order to do nothing but
    extinguish fires. Obedience is more important than anything else in our
    service.”

    This raises
    some serious questions about Thein Sein government’s commitment to protect
    vulnerable religious minorities, most specifically the Muslims.

    1.      Why, nine
    months on from the violence in Rakhine State, have Buddhist extremist groups
    that preach and perpetrate violence against Muslims, including those
    responsible for the attacks in Rakhine State and members of 969, not been
    identified?
    2.      Why have their
    members not been arrested? 
    3.      Why have they
    been allowed to continue with their campaign to disseminate verifiably
    malicious mis-information about the Burmese Muslims among the Buddhist
    majority?

    Many other
    questions also remain unanswered, such as, how did the attackers gain access to
    bulldozers?
    Who owns them?
    Who trained the attackers to drive them? In Myanmar, it is not easy for regular
    civilians to secure use of such equipment.

    Why are power
    and phone lines – both under the government’s direct control – typically cut
    off in the targeted Muslim neighborhoods before the violent attacks?

    This is not
    communal or sectarian conflict between Buddhist majority and Muslim minorities:
    it is series of one-sided, targeted violent and often lethal attacks against,
    their properties and businesses, which occur under the purview of sta te
    authorities – in other words, the Myanmar pogroms.

    It is not only
    concerns over the prevailing climate of impunity that exist regarding the
    anti-Muslim attacks, but we also have legitimate concerns regarding support for
    victims and respect for the rights of Muslims to return to their homes and
    rebuild their properties and lives. As the recent Human Rights Watch report
    emphasized, there is reportedly a Myanmar government policy regarding
    humanitarian aid to Muslims in Rakhine State as well as their long-term
    segregation:

    (Press Release)
    Human Rights Watch: Rohingya Muslims Face Humanitarian Crisis


    Fears of
    Long-Term Segregation of Displaced Population
    (Bangkok, March 27, 2013) – The Burmese government is systematically
    restricting humanitarian aid and imposing discriminatory policies on Rohingya
    Muslims in Arakan State, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should
    permit unfettered access to humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to
    Muslim populations, end segregated areas, and put forward a plan for those
    displaced to return to their homes.

    Burmese government restrictions on aid to Rohingya Muslims are creating
    a humanitarian crisis that will become a disaster when the rainy season
    arrives,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
    “Instead of addressing the problem, Burma’s leaders seem intent on keeping the
    Rohingya segregated in camps rather than planning for them to return to their
    homes.

    It is vital that immediate action is taken to assist the victims of the
    anti-Muslim attacks that have occurred since March 20th throughout Myanmar.
    Thousands of people are now in serious need of immediate humanitarian
    assistance including shelter, medicine, clean water, food and protection from
    violent uprisings. Until now, there has been inadequate intervention by the
    either the military or the government to protect vulnerable communities and
    victims. There are wide-spread reports of inadequate policing and inadequate
    assistance to the victims.

    The national
    government is not supplying adequate protection, and the assistance of
    international agencies is critical to save lives. These attacks follow a
    precedent of anti-Muslim incidents in Myanmar, and are a clear violation of
    human rights.

    Crisis
    Timeline:

    March 20th – 22nd
    §  In
    the city of Meiktila, Mandalay Division, anti-Muslim attacks and riots led to
    the destruction of hundreds of buildings and homes, vehicles and motorcycles,
    and Mosques. People were brutally beaten, attacked with machetes and burnt in
    the streets. It is estimated that 50 people were left dead after this incident.
    The murders include 28 children and 4 teachers taken from an Islamic School on
    March 21st. The security forces in the area did not protect the school, despite
    requests from Muslim organizations. There are now about 13,000 refugees in the
    area, many are seeking refuge in camps in Meiktila. Refugees are left without
    communication lines and are running out of food and water. 

    March 22nd

    §  Reports
    of violence from many towns including Yamethin and Lewei close to the capital
    Naypidaw. Also, there have been attacks in 3 townships in the Bago
    region. 

    March 25th 
    §  Anti-Muslim
    attacks reported in Pyay, Myanmar. Distribution of anti-Muslim propaganda
    including leaflets, anti-Muslim preaching in surrounding villages which a
    witness reports were played on loudspeakers distributed by a military truck.
    Muslims in this area were also threatened and told not to resist the
    destruction of their mosques or they would be in danger. 
    §  Ywe
    Su village in Tat Kon, Nay Payi Taw was attacked. There was a Mosque and 20
    Muslim houses in this village.

    March 26th 
    §  In
    Kyopinkauk near Pegu, Muslim houses, shops, a Mosque and a religious school
    were attacked. There were approximately 400 Muslims in this town and 150 Muslim
    houses. 

    March 27th
    §  In
    Oak Kan, north of Yangon, “969” Buddhist monks were preaching anti-Muslim messages
    daily; the citizens fear attacks as there have been threats to Muslims in the
    area. Some attackers have threatened to burn the Panipin village which is a
    Muslim area. 
    §  In
    Minhla, Pegu Division 3 mosques were destroyed as well as Muslim owned houses,
    a café and a bicycle shop. About 500 rioters came with weapons from Gone Su,
    Zigone Myo Thit. A mob raided Sit Kwin and destroyed properties. There were 3
    mosques and about 100 Muslim houses in Minhla. 
    §  In
    Zigon, Pegu Division, about 500 rioters destroyed a Mosque and many houses.
    §  In
    Patigone, Pegu Division, attackers destroyed Muslim houses.

    March 28th
    §  MoeNyo,
    Pegu Division. A Mosque was attacked.

    April 2nd
    §  An
    arson attack on the mosque on the 48th Street in Rangoon that resulted in the
    death of 13 Madrasa students. Government quick to announce the fire was the
    result of poor electrical wiring in the mosque while eyewitnesses saw people
    lobbing petrol-bombs into the building.



    source: Perdana Global Peace Foundation