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Myanmar Buddhist On Muslim Violence Is Government’s Fault, Says Physicians For Human Rights

Residents walk past buildings burning in
riot-hit Meiktila, central Myanmar on March 21, 2013. photo AFP
By Richard S. Ehrlich
August 30, 2013
(RNS) Buddhists are killing Muslims in Myanmar
with impunity because the government failed to stop the attacks, New York-based
Physicians for Human Rights reported amid fresh assaults that left more Muslims
homeless.
During the past year, scattered clashes across
Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, have left more than 240 people
dead, most of them Muslims.
A mob of about 1,000 Buddhists burned more
than 35 Muslim homes and a dozen shops on August 24 in Kanbalu in Myanmar’s
central Sagaing Division after hearing rumors that a Muslim man sexually
assaulted a young Buddhist woman, police told The Associated Press.
Police arrested a male Muslim suspect but
refused the mob’s demand to hand him over, sparking its arson attack against
his innocent Muslim neighbors, police said. The fires also destroyed a mosque.
“The Burmese government must make a concerted
effort to allow an effective investigation into these abuses and hold
perpetrators accountable,” the physicians group wrote in its report.
More ominously, the report concluded: “While
such massacres are not sweeping the country at present, the brazen nature of
these crimes and the widespread culture of impunity in which these massacres
occur form deeply troubling preconditions that make such crimes very likely to
continue.
“If these conditions go unaddressed, Burma may
very well face countrywide violence on a catastrophic level, including
potential crimes against humanity and/or genocide.”
The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights,
Tomas Quintana, investigated Buddhist attacks against Muslims in another
central town — Meiktila, in Mandalay Division — during a 10-day trip that ended
on August 21.
Residents accused Quintana of bias against
Buddhists involved in the Meiktila clashes, which occurred in March, and the
government denied his claims.
Quintana’s experience gave him “an insight
into the fear residents felt when being chased down by violent mobs.” Police
allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burned to death 43 people,
he said.
Rakhine state’s Muslims describe themselves as
citizens who are persecuted because they are minority ethnic Rohingya competing
with Buddhists in the impoverished region.
Buddhist militants and the government insist
the Rohingya are not citizens but instead are Muslim ethnic Bengalis who have
illegally migrated from neighboring Bangladesh during past decades.
When Buddhists rampage and torch Muslims’
homes and businesses, driving them off their land, there are “multiple
instances where police and/or the army attacked Rohingyas and other Muslims, or
watched as they were attacked, instead of protecting them,” the physicians’
report said.