April 23, 2013
New video footage has emerged showing Myanmar police standing by as Buddhist mobs wielding sticks and swords attack Rohingya Muslims in the Southeast Asian country.
The footage is believed to have been shot by police officers in the town of Meiktila in the Mandalay region during several days of violence that left at least 43 people dead in late March.
The video shows Buddhist crowds looting and ransacking a Muslim jewelry shop, cheering when Muslims are attacked, and setting fire to mosques and houses.
Both Buddhist monks and police can be clearly seen through much of the footage, with the monks often taking part in the violence and the police watching immobile as it rolls.
The footage surfaced on the day the European Union is expected to permanently lift the remaining sanctions against Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Monday, saying Myanmar’s authorities launched a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslim community.
The rights group said the wave of violence against the Muslims, which killed hundreds of people and forcibly displaced thousands in the western state of Rakhine in 2012, amounted to crimes against humanity.
Citing evidence of mass graves and forced displacement, HRW said Myanmar’s government “engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement.”
Some 800,000 Rohingyas are deprived of citizenship rights due to the policy of discrimination that has denied them the right of citizenship and made them vulnerable to acts of violence and persecution, expulsion, and displacement.
The Myanmar government has so far refused to extricate the stateless Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine from their citizenship limbo, despite international pressure to give them a legal status.
Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar since it achieved independence in 1948.
Hundreds of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in recent attacks by extremists who call themselves Buddhists.
The extremists frequently attack Rohingyas and have set fire to their homes in several villages in Rakhine. Myanmar Army forces allegedly provided the fanatics containers of petrol for torching the houses of Muslim villagers, who are then forced to flee.
Myanmar’s government has been accused of failing to protect the Muslim minority.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has also come under fire for her stance on the violence. The Nobel Peace laureate has refused to censure the Myanmarese military for its persecution of the Rohingyas.
Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued separate statements, calling on Myanmar to take action to protect the Rohingya Muslim population against extremists.