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Burma ranked third as global risk of genocide reaches 10-year high

A rohingya refugee boy looks on at Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh April 12, 2017. Source: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

April 14, 2017

BURMA has been identified as the third most at risk country in the world to experience a new episode of genocide, as annual rankings show civilian mass killings at the hands of government forces are on the rise worldwide.

A report from NGO ‘The Early Warning Project’ estimates the risk of deliberate killing of more than 1,000 civilians within a country by that country’s government or its agents, or state-led mass killing.

Alarmingly, the annual rankings also show a reversal in a decade-long trend of decline.

The analysis forecasts risks using public data and advanced methodologies built on 50 years of historical indicators in the hope of highlighting cases where there are early warning signs of potential mass atrocities.

For the third year running, Burma has made it into the top three, along with Sudan and Yemen. According to the data, Burma is already experiencing state-led mass killings, however, models indicate significant risk of a new distinct episode occurring despite the country’s progress towards democracy.

Increased violence against the Muslim minority Rohingya is behind the high ranking.

A UN report detailed how Burma’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya during their campaign against the insurgents, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

The military has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency operation, but this has been largely discredited by independent bodies.

Rohingya children gather at the Dar Paing camp for Muslim refugees, north of Sittwe, western Rakhine state, Myanmar, June 24 2014. Source: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe

While the UN report stopped short of explicitly labelling the crackdown as ethnic cleansing, they expressed “serious concerns” that the attacks were a result of a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas”.

Bangladesh also appeared in the list, with the NGO ranking it 16th at risk in the world.

Starker political polarisation and a growing extremist threat, as well as an increasingly authoritarian government were given as reasons for the elevated risk of mass violence in the country.

Sri Lanka ranked 18 in the list, seeing a significant and steep increase in risk from the previous year that saw them in the 35th spot.

The report noted that this rise was surprising given the country’s political gains after an unexpected but ultimately peaceful transfer of political power via legislative and presidential elections in 2015.

Despite these positive developments, Sri Lanka was still deemed a risk due to its “history of mass killing and the continued salience of the ruling elite’s ethnicity”.

Pakistan and India also appeared in the list, ranked 9th and 30th respectively.

Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, warned of a dangerous influx of state-led mass killings across the globe and reiterated the importance of analysis such as this to fight against it.

“After a decade of decline, civilian mass killings by governments against their own people are once again on the rise,” she said.

“By combining the power of analytics with the growing body of social science around mass killing onsets, we hope to galvanise preventive actions to avoid these outcomes.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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