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Situation of Inter-Communal Violence in Myanmar is Perilous, Warn ASEAN Legislators

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights  •  August 26, 2013

Myanmar is on the precipice of widespread inter-communal conflict and the authorities must immediately implement a comprehensive strategy that protects victims, holds perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions and also deals with the underlying tensions that are fueling conflicts between Buddhist and Muslim communities, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.

The Myanmar authorities must ensure quick and impartial investigations into the burning and destruction of around 60 homes and businesses in Kantbalu in the division of Sagaing this weekend and ensure those responsible are dealt with according to the law, APHR said.

“The government, and particularly local security forces are not doing enough to reduce inter-communal tensions and prevent these shocking incidents of mob violence. We are facing the prospect of widespread violent conflict if anti-Muslim rhetoric and incitement to violence is not subdued and leaders and perpetrators of these attacks continue to feel as if they can act with impunity,” warned Eva Kusuma Sundari, APHR President and Indonesian Member of Parliament.

“The deep underlying tensions are clear for all to see and we feel that the authorities are not reacting sufficiently to what is developing into a perilous situation in Myanmar. ”

“If the government cannot solve this on its own then it should create the space for civil society and community organizations to help ease tensions and rebuild broken relations. In many ways, the solutions to these rifts must come from within the communities themselves and not perceived to be something imposed from outside,” Ms. Sundari added.

APHR recognizes the difficulties faced by security forces in trying to deal with mob violence but remains concerned by allegations of police inaction in several incidents of attacks on Muslim communities over the past year. The government needs to take immediate and definitive steps to curb the growing levels of anti-Muslim rhetoric that is dividing once peaceful communities, APHR said.

APHR remains concerned by the activities of the so-called 969 Movement, which has been openly preaching hate-speech, anti-Muslim rhetoric and inciting indiscriminate violence against Muslim communities. The recirculation of this dangerous anti-Muslim propaganda by various media outlets is also troubling, APHR said.

“There are still many questions surrounding the reform process in Myanmar, and many issues that remain to be resolved, not least those surrounding freedom of expression. It is deeply troubling that people protesting against large-scale mining and business projects and land grabs are arrested and put in jail whilst those propagating racist hate-speech and inciting violence remain untouched by the authorities,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, Vice President of APHR, adding that there are serious misgivings regarding the draft Law Relating to the Forming of Organizations currently being debated in Parliament.

Local parliamentarians should raise this issue in the parliament and work with state officials and civil society organizations to help mend rifts between communities and rebuild trust, APHR said.

“It is imperative that those who lost their homes receive protection and backing from the relevant authorities and that they are assisted in rebuilding their lives and homes so they can return as soon as possible,” Ms. Sundari said.

“This must not lead to Muslims being segregated from their Buddhist neighbors, as we have seen happen following similar incidents over the past 14 months. This state policy of segregation is only creating deeper divisions and increasing the potential for more violence.”

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This post is in: Press Release

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