BANGKOK - Six weeks after a state of emergency was declared in Myanmar's Rakhine State, Rohingya Muslims are increasingly being hit with targeted attacks that have included killings, rape and physical abuse, Amnesty International said Friday, July 20.
Declaring a state of emergency is not a license to commit human rights violations, said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's Myanmar Researcher in a press release on its website.
It is the duty of security forces to defend the rights of everyone - without exception or discrimination - from abuses by others, while abiding by human rights standards themselves.
âDescribed by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Myanmar's ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingyas, are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
Myanmar's government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Sectarian violence plagued the western Rakhine state last month after the killing of 10 Muslims in an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on their bus.
The attack followed the rape and murder of a woman in the state, which borders Bangladesh, with Buddhists blaming Muslims for that.
The violence has left dozens of people dead and tens of thousands homeless.
The official death toll of the rioting and its aftermath has been put at 78, although the real figure may be much higher.
Between 50,000 and 90,000 people - with lower figures coming from the government and higher ones from UN agencies- are estimated to have been displaced.
The human rights and humanitarian needs of those affected by the violence depend on the presence of monitors and aid workers, said Zawacki.
The Myanmar authorities are compounding the error by exacerbating the suffering of those displaced by the violence and violations.
International observers are banned from visiting northern Rakhine state, where the majority of Rohingya live, making accurate data collection impossible.
Two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar's security forces of using brutal force against the country's Rohingya Muslims.
The leading rights group accused Myanmar government of allowing state-sanctioned abuses against Rohingyas, including physical abuse, rape, destruction of property, and unlawful killings carried out by both Rakhine Buddhists and security forces.
"Most cases have meant targeted attacks on the minority Rohingya population and they were bearing the brunt of most of that communal violence in June and they continue to bear the lion's share of the violations perpetrated by the state security forces," Amnesty researcher Zawacki told the BBC's Viv Marsh.
Chris Lewa, director of The Arakan Project, which focuses on Rohingyas in the region, noted that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims had been arrested, beaten and even tortured.
"Shortly after the main violence... then we start seeing a new phase of, I would say, state-sanctioned abuses, where especially in Maung Daw... we heard on a daily basis about mass arrests of Rohingya," Lewa told the BBC.
Amnesty added that over the past six weeks Myanmar's Border Security Force (nasaka), army, and police have conducted massive sweeps in areas that are heavily populated by Rohingyas.
Hundreds of mostly men and boys have been detained, with nearly all held incommunicado, and some subjected to ill-treatment, violating the rights to liberty and to freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion.
In six weeks, Myanmar has not only added to a long litany of human rights violations against the Rohingya, but has also done an about-turn on the situation of political imprisonment, said Zawacki.
After more than a year of prisoner amnesties and releases, the overall number of political prisoners in Myanmar is again on the rise.