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Leaked documents implicate Myanmar Govt in crimes against humanity

28th Mar 2014

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Ahmed J Versi

Leaked Myanmar Government documents reveal severe violations of human rights of Rohingya Muslims in the country, including restrictions on the freedom of movement, marriage, childbirth, and other aspects of daily life in northern Rakhine State, Fortify Rights (FR) said in a new report released on February 25.

The report implicates state and central Government officials as perpetrators of the crime against humanity.

“The impacts of these restrictions are severe and have been well-documented for decades, but the official orders have been kept out of the public domain until now,” said Executive Director of FR, Matthew Smith. “This architecture of abuse contributes to political instability and violence and must be lifted immediately.”

The 79-page report, Policies of Persecution: Ending Abusive State Policies Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, is based primarily on the analysis of 12 leaked official documents and a review of public records, as well as interviews with Rohingya and others in Myanmar and Thailand. The documents published in the report reveal restrictions that deny Rohingya basic human rights, including the rights to non-discrimination, freedom of movement, marriage, family, health, and privacy.

‘Regional Order 1/2005,’ obtained by FR, lays the foundation for a two-child policy enforced in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, requiring Rohingya “who have permission to marry” to “limit the number of children, in order to control the birth rate so that there is enough food and shelter.”

Confidential enforcement guidelines, authorise security forces to use abusive methods to implement these “population control” measures. One document instructs officials to confirm women are the birth mothers of infants and to accurately record the number of children in each family when entering private homes unannounced. The guideline urges the authorities to force Rohingya women to breastfeed infants in their presence “if there is suspicion of someone being substituted” in the family registry.

“The government is systematically persecuting Rohingya on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and at times gender,” Smith said. “Rohingya women in particular find themselves in the crosshairs of these targeted policies, facing severe discrimination because they’re women as well as Rohingya Muslims.”

Other policies curtail Rohingya freedom of movement. Rohingya in Rakhine State are barred from travelling within or between townships without authorisation, and they are only permitted to travel outside the state in rare circumstances with additional, difficult-to-obtain authorizations. Restrictions on movement severely inhibit livelihoods and access to healthcare, even in medical emergencies, impinging upon their right to health.

The abuses resulting from the policies of persecution explained in this report are central to the forced migration of Rohingya in Southeast Asia, FR said. The policies appear to be designed to make life so intolerable for Rohingya that they will leave the country, and indeed many have. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, and elsewhere over the last two decades, in many cases risking death at sea and abuses by human traffickers, including killings and ill treatment.

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