Burma: Rights group urges prompt action over Rakhine state report
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Burma: Rights group urges prompt action over Rakhine state report

HUMAN rights watchdog Amnesty International has pressed Burma’s authorities to immediately act on the “urgent” calls made by the Advisory Commission formed to resolve the protracted Buddhist and Muslim conflict in the Rakhine state.

Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Champa Patel made the call to the Burmese government in wake of the 15-page interim report released by the commission on Thursday.

“The authorities must immediately act on the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations to grant humanitarian access, end the media blackout in Northern Rakhine, and ensure the perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable,” Patel said in a statement on Friday.

In the interim report, the commission gave the Burmese government recommendations on “improving the welfare of all people in Rakhine state”.

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The report’s authors said their recommendations must be met with “urgent action” by the authorities, according to Amnesty International.

“Unfortunately, the commission’s recommendations do not go far enough to address the increasingly dire situation on the ground. There is much more the authorities can and should do, including lifting restrictions on freedom of movement for the Rohingya and other Muslims,” Patel said.

These recommendations, according to the commission led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, include:

  • renewed call for unimpeded access for humanitarian workers and journalists to the affected areas in Northern Rakhine; and
  • independent and impartial investigation of the allegations of crimes committed on and since October last year.

Sectarian violence, which erupted in 2012, has seen dozens of Rohingya killed by vigilante mobs comprising hardline Buddhist nationalist groups and followers, with thousands more displaced.

Conflict in the region escalated when nine Burmese policemen were killed in attacks on security posts near the Bangladesh border on Oct 9. As a result, the Burmese security forces launched a crackdown, which has seen more than 70,000 Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

While Burma’s authorities have defended the crackdown in the restive state as lawful counter-insurgency operation, the security forces have been faced with accusations of genocide, torture, rape, human rights abuses.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Army defends Rohingya crackdown, denies abuses

The commission said it strongly believed perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account.

However, Patel criticised the Commission’s recommendations, saying it falls short of ensuring “full respect” for the protection and rights of the Rohingya.

“Amnesty International is particularly concerned about the Commission’s failure to recommend necessary amendments to Myanmar (Burma)’s highly discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively denies citizenship to the Rohingya – something it should address, along with other human rights violations, in its final report, due by August,” Patel said.

Patel pointed out the Rakhine Commission did not have a mandate to investigate allegations of human rights violations by the security forces, which the UN and Amnesty International believe may constitute crimes against humanity.

She said:

“The government’s own investigations also lack the independence and impartiality necessary to deliver justice for victim.”

“Given the Myanmar government’s repeated failure to carry out a credible and effective investigation, the UN should mandate a Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur about human rights in Myanmar.”

Since last August, Annan was appointed the head of the advisory panel set up by Burma’s government to find “lasting solutions” to the conflict in Rakhine state. The council will comprise of three international and six national experts.

“Our recommendations, of course, go beyond the current situation in Northern Rakhine and include proposals relating to the protection of rights, freedom of movement, enhanced economic and social development and the edification of Rakhine’s cultural heritage,” Annan said in the opening remarks of the report.

“We recognise the challenges facing Rakhine state and its peoples are complex and the search for lasting solutions will require determination, perseverance and trust. Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken immediately, which we put forward in this report.”