Myanmar must take decisive action to stop attacks on Muslims: HRW

Ahram Online, Monday 1 Apr 2013

After deadly clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, HRW demands in a report that the government take decisive action to combat sectarianism

A man stands in front of a mosque as it burns in Meikhtila, Myanmar (Photo: Reuters)

Human Rights Watch calls for decisive action by Myanmar’s government to end deadly violence targeting Muslim communities and releases satellite images that show the destruction of entire neighbourhoods in recent riots.

In a statement issued on Monday, the New York-based independent human rights organisation demanded that the Burmese government thoroughly investigate and hold accountable those who incited and committed deadly violence in Meiktila in central Burma from March 20 - 22, 2013.

HRW further argues that decisive government action to combat impunity, end discrimination and promote tolerance among religious groups is needed to end the tide of attacks against Muslim communities.

An estimated 40 people were killed and 61 wounded in the clashes between Muslims and majority Buddhists in Meiktila in the Mandalay Region. Satellite images analysed by HRW show the scale of the destruction: an estimated 828 buildings - the vast majority residences - were totally destroyed and at least 35 other buildings were partially destroyed. Areas with near total destruction were concentrated within three locations in Meiktila, measuring more than 24 hectares in total area west and northeast of the city’s main market. The destruction appears similar to satellite imagery of towns affected by sectarian violence in Arakan State in 2012, in which arson attacks left large, clearly-defined residential areas in ashes.

"The government should investigate responsibility for the violence in Meiktila and the failure of the police to stop wanton killings and the burning of entire neighbourhoods," said Brad Adams, Asia director.

"Burma’s government should have learned the lessons of recent sectarian clashes in Arakan State and moved quickly to bolster the capacity of the police to contain violence and protect lives and property."

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