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UN Rights Envoy Condemns “Shocking” Killing of Rohingya Women

A Rohingya family
have a meager meal in a camp for displaced Muslim families. (Photo: Jpaing /
The Irrawaddy)
June  12, 2013
human rights rapporteur for Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana has condemned a shooting
incident that killed three Rohingya women in Arakan State last week, calling it
a “shocking example” of how government securityforces continue to mistreat the
Muslim minority “with complete impunity.”
On June 4, local
authorities ordered a group of Rohingyas living in makeshift homes in Parein
Village, Mrauk-U Township, to leave their village and relocate to another site.
When they protested against the order police opened fire on the villagers,
killing three women, and injuring five villagers
“The fatal shooting
last week of three Rohingya women participating in a peaceful protest in
[Arakan] State is the latest shocking example of how law enforcement officials
operate with complete impunity there,” Quintana said in a statement released on
He said that Burma’s
government should conduct an impartial investigation into the deadly shooting
and other gross rights abuses committed by security forces against the
Rohingyas, which the UN envoy said are “widespread and systematic.”
“However, since the
violence in [Arakan] State first erupted last June, I have seen absolutely no
evidence that the government is fulfilling this obligation,” Quintana said.
His comments come
ahead of a statement on Burma by the President of the UN Human Rights Council,
which is expected this week.
One year ago, waves
of blood inter-communal violence broke out between Rohingya Muslims and
Arakanese Buddhists. Some 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced by the
unrest, which killed almost 200 people.
The government, which
has deployed thousands of armed security forces in the region, has been accused
of actively supporting the Arakanese mobs and of committing a wide range of
human rights abuses against the Rohingya population, including confining them
to camps and villages.
Buddhist-majority government rejects the citizenship claims of the Rohingyas
and stresses that they are “Bengalis,” who crossed into Burma illegally from
Bangladesh in the past decades. The Rohingya insist they have lived in Arakan
State for many generations.
Shwe Maung, a
parliamentarian with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, said
some villagers involved in the shooting incident had told him that they were
shot at simply because they had objected to being relocated.
Shwe Maung, who comes
from the Muslim-dominated constituency of Maungdaw Township in Arakan State,
said the incident was “a clear-cut case of human rights violation,” as police
should have never opened fire on an unarmed crowd. “They could have shot in the
air, they could have used teargas or rubber bullets,” he added.
The lawmaker said
however, that UN rights envoy Quintana had put out his statement too soon, as a
thorough investigation into the incident should be conducted first to gather
all the facts. “If he nowalready says that it happened with impunity, I would
not agree,” Shwe Maung said.
Myo Thant, a Rohingya
politician with the Maungdaw-based Democracy and Human Rights Party, said
villagers had told him that the police opened fire without any provocation by
the villagers.
“The officials came
and said that they will move them to a refugee camp,” he said, “But they
villagers didn’t want to go, they are afraid they will lose their land, and
that they will have to stay in the camps, or have to go another country.” 
Since the shooting,
he said, police had come to the village to arrest 30 men and boys, adding that
authorities were trying to accuse the Rohingyas of having resisted government
orders in order to make them culpable for the incident. “They are accused of disturbing
the policemen while they are carrying out their duties,” he added.