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A new report applying genocide laws to the Rohingya situation in Arakan State has been released by human rights organisation Fortify Rights.
The 78-page paper accuses figures within the Burmese government and military of inciting unrest and committing abuses against the Rohingya with the intent to destroy them “in whole or in part”.
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group with a population of up to a million in Burma, have been considered stateless since the Burmese government passed the 1982 Citizenship Act.
Based on nearly three years of research, the ground-breaking report “names several responsible parties, including specific state security agencies, and establishes links to the central government in committing genocidal acts,” according to Fortify Rights executive director Matthew Smith.
Prepared by Yale Law School using documentation provided by Fortify Rights, the paper contains testimonies from Rohingya alleging a wide variety of human rights abuses.
One section records a 19-year-old Rohingya woman’s fear of being raped by state security forces.
“Sometimes the soldiers come to our villages and enter our homes. If they find young women in the home, they will take them to their bases … The soldiers touched and tortured the women,” she said.
The report also documents forced labour with males as young as 10 working in the construction, agriculture and service industries.
A Rohingya man testifies: “Sometimes the military would come to the village and arrest us to work for them … We cannot say ‘no.’ If we say no, they’d beat us.”
The Burmese government addressed its treatment of the Rohingya earlier this year following increased international pressure.
It did “not accept allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem,” stated President Thein Sein’s office director Maj. Zaw Htay.
Still, some politicians have run on an anti-Rohingya platform to drum up support before the 8 November general election.
Speaking at a campaign event last week senior MP of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Hla Swe touted his anti-Rohingya policies in Bawpyin, Magwe.
“People of the village of Bawpyin, let me ask you a question – would you agree to give citizenship to the Rohingya kalar [derogatory term for dark-skinned Muslims of South Asian descent]?” Hla Swe said.
Fortify Rights has not concluded definitively whether genocide is occurring against the Rohingya following the release of its report.
The organisation is now calling for the UN Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into international crimes – including genocide – committed against the Rohingya in Burma.
Read more about the plight of the Rohingya