Burma's ethnic minorities suffer persecution: Amnesty

Burma's ethnic minorities suffer persecution: Amnesty

Burma's ethnic minorities suffer persecution: Amnesty

Updated 24 July 2012, 9:23 AEST

Amnesty International says that although Burma is making great progress in many areas, the situation for ethnic minorities remains grave.

The Burmese security forces have been accused of human rights violations against the minority Rohingya community in the western state of Rakhine and Amnesty International says the number of reported incidents are on the rise.

But the Burmese Government denies any violations by security forces against the Rohingyas.

Benjamin Zawacki is Burma researcher for Amnesty. He told Radio Australia's Connect Asia Amnesty International has been monitoring the situation for some time.

"Well we've had eyes and ears on the grounds for some time," he said.

"This has been true since 2005 when we produced a lengthy report on systemic discrimination and persecution suffered by the Rohingya."

"What we've seen since then and largely because of the soldiers, as opposed to despite their presence, is that violations against the Muslim population generally, and the Rohingya population specifically, have been on the rise."

Mr Zawacki said persecution of the Rohingya by Burma's security forces has generally taken the form of massive arrests and ill-treatment while in detention.

He said that the crux of the problem is that Rohingya's are not considered citizens of Burma.

Rohingyas are often described as terrorists or invaders by Burma's media. Neither is the Government sympathetic to the Rohingya's plight.

"Well the Burmese Government is doing very little, as you may be aware about 10 days ago President Thein Sein suggested that the only solution was to place these people in refugee camps," said Mr Zawacki.

"And or to resettle them to a third country somewhere else," he said.

"What needs to happen is that the citizenship law of 1962 needs to be significantly amended or repealed such that Rohingyas are deemed to be citizens of the country."

"In their eyes the Rohingyas living in the country are simply not Burmese, that is the crux of the problem, they are deemed to be non-citizens," said Mr Zawacki.

Burma's President Thein Sein was expected to address the issue of Burmese people living in Thailand in talks with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok today.

Mr Zawacki says that Thailand has a role to play in finding a solution to the issue of the Rohingyas in Burma.

He also says that there is room for the US to apply pressure as it deepens its engagement with Burma.

"Clearly the United States, in renewing its links to the country should very much raise the political temperature here and say look you have a population that you have systemically persecuted and discriminated against."

"That needs to stop."

He said that one of the challenges of getting attention for the plight of the Rohingyas is that it runs counter to the current narrative of Burma which is very positive and optimistic.

"These reforms seem to be for the political and economic centres but not for the ethnic minorities," he said.