Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Myanmarâ€™s authorities have launched a campaign of â€˜ethnic cleansingâ€™ against the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community.
The rights group issued a statement on Monday saying the wave of violence against the Muslims, which killed hundreds of people and forcibly displaced thousands in the western state of Rakhine in 2012, amounted to crimes against humanity.
Citing evidence of mass graves and forced displacement, HRW said Myanmarâ€™s government â€œengaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement.â€
It added that officials from the powerful Rakhine Nationalities Development Party as well as Buddhist monks publically encouraged coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods, boycotting Muslim businesses in Rakhine.
â€œThese groups and others issued numerous anti-Rohingya pamphlets and public statements, explicitly or implicitly denying the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, demonizing them, and calling for their removal from the country, at times using the phrase â€˜ethnic cleansing,â€™â€ Human Rights Watch stated.
â€œThe statements frequently were released in connection with organized meetings and in full view of local, state, and national authorities who raised no concerns.â€
The rights group also criticized the government of Myanmarâ€™s President Thein Sein over its failure to bring to justice those Buddhist mobs that attacked homes of Muslims in Rakhine.
The Muslim minority of Rohingyas in Myanmar accounts for about five percent of the countryâ€™s population of nearly 60 million. The persecuted minority has faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country achieved independence in 1948.
Myanmarâ€™s government has been repeatedly criticized for failing to protect the Rohingyas.
In March, more than 40 people were killed and a number of mosques and homes of Muslims were burned in central Myanmar, indicating a rise in the persecution of Muslims.
On March 28, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said he had received reports that Myanmarâ€™s soldiers and police sometimes stood by â€œwhile atrocities have been committed before their very eyesâ€ by well-organized Buddhist mobs in the central city of Meiktila.