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Statement by Ms. Yanghee LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council

Agenda item 4

Geneva, 13 March 2017

Mr. President, distinguished representatives, ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to present today my third report to this Council in my capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I am conscious that this Government is only now nearing its first anniversary in power and that not only has it inherited formidable human rights challenges from the previous Government, it also has to meet with exceedingly high expectations from its people as well as the international community. 

As I have conveyed to the Government of Myanmar, and to members of this Council, my approach to this mandate has always been as a friend to Myanmar. I have no agenda other than the realization of human rights in the country; the only bias and partiality is towards the promotion and protection of the rights of all people in Myanmar. 

Mr. President,

I have conducted two visits to Myanmar in the past year, in June 2016 and January 2017. I thank the Government of Myanmar for these invitations and its cooperation with my mandate, attempts at better engagement especially by the Permanent Mission here, and particularly in respecting my request to meet community members in Rakhine State without close monitoring of officials and security personnel during my most recent visit. Nevertheless, I regret that I was again unable to visit several areas I had requested in Kachin state and that these refusals were given at the last minute, preventing full optimization of the limited time I had available. I must confess that there were times that I had seriously questioned the nature of the cooperation. 

The government has also yet to agree on the proposed joint benchmarks, which were called for by the last Council resolution, and which were shared with them several times before and during my recent visit. 


One of the key tasks facing Myanmar will be reform and modernization of all three branches of government. The judiciary – vital arbiters of justice – need continuing strengthening and improvements to the appointments system. In the executive branch, administrative reform including on local levels will be vital. On legislative side, I remain of the view that legislative process requires further streamlining and increased transparency, and suggest a law on law-making be enacted similar to those adopted by several countries in the region. I have also welcomed the repeal of several outdated laws but dozens of problematic laws remain on the books and continue to be used. 

The 1982 Citizenship Law in particular appears to have a similar standing as the Constitution as to the sensitivity surrounding its possible reform despite its clearly discriminatory provisions. Currently, a citizenship verification exercise under this discriminatory law is underway and despite understandings that the process should be voluntary, I receive continuing reports of Rohingya being coerced into undergoing the process as otherwise they are not allowed fishing licences, to carry out work as a national staff member of an international organization, sit for matriculation exams in schools or even receive food assistance. 

As mentioned, Constitutional reform seems a distant goal at this time. And made even more onerous with the brutal killing of one of Myanmar’s known Constitutional lawyers, U Ko Ni, as he was holding his grandchild. Despite this unexpected and seemingly insurmountable hurdle, I urge for progress towards Constitutional reform through potentially the establishment of a preparatory committee to study possible revision processes. Until the Constitution is reformed to provide for a truly civilian government, Myanmar cannot truly attain a full democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The extent that human rights defenders as well as press members are monitored, surveilled, harassed, and intimidated is also a good barometer for measuring democratic space. Considering the number of former political prisoners in the ranks of Myanmar’s Cabinet and Parliament, it is disappointing to see the continued misuse of laws such as section 505 of the Penal Code and increasingly section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act to suppress voices of dissent, including through arrest and imprisonment. Of particular concern are multiple cases of killings of civil society actors for their involvement in human rights work and activism, including several in recent months, as well as cases which remain unresolved even after years of relatives of victims demanding justice. Many of these cases relate to vested commercial interests or the military.

Myanmar has rich natural resources, but it is important that efforts to extract this bounty benefit all. I am concerned that individuals who have lived on land for generations continue to face evictions without proper safeguards and that communities continue to face severe health impacts and livelihood difficulties from environmental degradation associated with large scale mineral extraction. It is important that, the recent Environmental Impact Assessment Procedures, are systematically implemented and enforced, and that full advantage is taken of the welcome decision to suspend the issuance of jade mining licenses, to reform the legislative and policy framework governing the mining industry to ensure strong protections against environmental and human rights abuses. 

Mr. President,

I am extremely concerned by the escalation in conflict in Kachin and Shan States which is having a dramatic impact on civilians in these areas. Just a week ago, fighting broke out in Kokang self-administered zone, reportedly causing over ten thousand people to flee to cross the Chinese border in search of safety. I say “reportedly” as we do not know exact conditions. Since May 2016, the United Nations and other international organizations have been systematically denied authorization to deliver vital and in some cases lifesaving assistance to over 40,000 IDPs including those recently displaced. Even in areas controlled by the government access is becoming more difficult – additional layers of approvals have recently been required – including from the military. 

I also continue to receive reports of serious human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual- and gender-based violence, arbitrary killings, and abductions, all of which frequently go uninvestigated. There has also been a worrying trend of reportedly indiscriminate attacks in or near civilian area. I condemn the apparent total disregard for civilian lives in the strongest terms and emphasize the need for all parties to take immediate steps to protect civilians, respect international human rights and humanitarian law and end the violence and for investigations into allegations to be conducted. 

Peace will be vital to the future development of Myanmar, and the peace process represents an opportunity to transform the country. To have this transformative effect, discussions need to be inclusive and to address complex issues related to underlying root causes. I welcome the increasing representation of women in the discussions, but hope the level of representation will reach a minimum of 30% across all groups, in the next conference. Civil society organizations must also be seen as vital partners to the process. Unfortunately the peace process at the moment appears to be at a stalemate – I call on all parties to increase efforts to advance the process. 

Distinguished Representatives,

You may be aware that one of my main concerns during my visit to Myanmar in January was reprisals. I raised concerns earlier of voices of dissent being suppressed including through arrest and imprisonment. And never have I felt more anxiety over potential acts of retaliation and reprisals than in Rakhine State during my visit. 

Myself and my predecessors have long raised concerns about Rakhine State, particularly the institutionalised discrimination faced by the Rohingya population and the inter-communal violence in 2012, as well as the general underdevelopment of the state and lack of opportunities for all communities. As you are all likely aware the situation in the state took on new dimensions on 9 October, when three Border Guard Police facilities were reportedly attacked, by groups of armed men in a coordinated manner, killing 9 members of the Myanmar Police Force. In response three townships were declared closed off with the launch of a security operation, with no access to independent media, and humanitarian programmes suspended. Following the launch of the security or clearance operations, reports began surfacing, increasingly and persistently regarding serious human rights violations, allegedly committed by the security forces. 

Reprisals was the main reason why I had asked to make a visit to Bangladesh where tens of thousands of the Rohingya population have fled from Rakhine State, and where they might feel less threatened to give me their accounts of what had happened during the clearance operations. In Cox’s Bazar, I met around 140 people from several villages in the north of Rakhine. I heard from them harrowing account after harrowing account. In my statement at the end of my mission to Bangladesh, I spoke about having been especially affected by a mother who repeatedly expressed regret for mistakenly thinking that her son had been brought out from their burning house. She heard him screaming for her and managed to save his life but burn scars have been seared onto him - scars which I saw with my own eyes. I wanted to share what I saw with you today. 

I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence. Even men, young and old, broke down and cried in front of me telling me about what they went through and their losses.

Putting these experiences together with the institutionalized discrimination and long-standing persecution of the Rohingya population which I have reported on previously, as well as the continuing action by the authorities to make their lives even more difficult – even as the clearance operations are taking place – which include by dismantling their homes and conducting a household survey where those absent may be struck of the list that could be the only legal proof of their status in Myanmar - indicates the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya population from the country altogether. I sincerely hope that that is not the case. 


Myanmar has established several commissions to review the situation in Rakhine State, however I believe they have yet to discharge their investigative obligations. In the case of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the alleged human rights violations are outside the scope of their mandate. For other commissions, there are questions about the extent to which their investigations are “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial”. In particular, for investigations to be truly independent – members should be independent of any institution or agency that may be the subject of the inquiry. However, the Maungdaw Investigation Commission, whose members I was able to meet during my January visit, includes former members of the military and the currently serving Chief of the Myanmar Police Force. The commission also does not appear to have a robust methodology or policies in place to address key issues such as witness protection or documentation of evidence. 

The truth about whether all, or some, or any of these allegations are correct needs to be established. There is a need for a new set of investigations which are “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial”, and this needs to happen soon, before the evidence is compromised. In Myanmar’s pursuit of a fully democratic society, no stones must be left unturned. The alleged victims, as well as all the people of Myanmar deserve to know the truth. The international community must come together in expressing a strong and single voice in this regard, regardless of varying interests of individual member states. This is why I called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, structural, and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State.

Prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations are not only needed in Rakhine, but also in conflict affected areas such as Kachin and Shan which are often overlooked and where serious violations, of a similar type to those in Rakhine, have been reported for many years. Yet many of these violations have also gone uninvestigated, with the situation in these areas worsening and still receiving little attention. For this reason, I have repeatedly requested to travel to Laiza and other areas in Kachin and Shan to speak to community members and IDPs but have been repeatedly denied, including during my most recent visit. That is also the reason why I recommended for this Council to hold a dedicated and urgent discussion to address the human rights violations occurring in other parts of the country including in Kachin and northern Shan.

Mr. President,

Following my visit to Bangladesh, I was a bit disappointed to hear that the Government of Myanmar has started to claim that I am unfair and biased. But I have to point out that the focus of my Bangladesh visit and related observations was to meet those who had fled from the north of Rakhine subsequent to the conduct of clearance operations there – and all those I met who had fled were Rohingya. 


I would like to draw some attention to the joint benchmarks I have proposed as well as the suggested areas which remain to be explored for development of technical cooperation programmes. I remain convinced that Myanmar would highly benefit from establishing a fully-fledged OHCHR country office with proper resources and a full mandate to help with the provision of technical advice and assistance on human rights issues to the Government and people of Myanmar.

I want to end this statement by emphasizing that I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to present a biased, one-sided report. However, I have every reason to present the situation to reflect the reality, even if some may not like what I have to say.

I believe this Council expects me to do exactly that by entrusting me with this mandate. 

As I have always done, I present myself, and my mandate, as a source for support and assistance towards Myanmar’s aim of becoming a fully functioning democracy and aspiration to be respected in the international fora. 

Thank you for your attention.

A/HRC/34/67 Advance unedited version Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

March 3, 2017

Originally published by United Nations Information Centre Yangon.

Rohingya Muslims are stopped at a check post in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on November 21, 2016.
© 2016 Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

February 6, 2017

New Eyewitness Accounts Show Systematic Attacks Based on Ethnicity, Religion

New YorkBurmese government forces committed rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 during security operations in northern Rakhine State in late 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should urgently endorse an independent, international investigation into alleged abuses in northern Rakhine State, including into possible systematic rape against Rohingya women and girls.

Burmese army and Border Guard Police personnel took part in rape, gang rape, invasive body searches, and sexual assaults in at least nine villages in Maungdaw district between October 9 and mid-December. Survivors and witnesses, who identified army and border police units by their uniforms, kerchiefs, armbands, and patches, described security forces carrying out attacks in groups, some holding women down or threatening them at gunpoint while others raped them. Many survivors reported being insulted and threatened on an ethnic or religious basis during the assaults.

“These horrific attacks on Rohingya women and girls by security forces add a new and brutal chapter to the Burmese military’s long and sickening history of sexual violence against women,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher. “Military and police commanders should be held responsible for these crimes if they did not do everything in their power to stop them or punish those involved.”

Between December 2016 and January 2017, Human Rights Watch researchers in Bangladesh interviewed 18 women, of whom 11 had survived sexual assault, as well as 10 men. Seventeen men and women, including some women who survived assaults, witnessed sexual violence, including against their wives, sisters, or daughters. Altogether Human Rights Watch documented 28 incidents of rape and other sexual assault. Some incidents involved several victims. A report released by the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on February 3 found that more than half of the 101 women UN investigators interviewed said they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence. The report, based on a total of 204 interviews, concluded that attacks including rape and other sexual violence “seem[ed] to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

After attacks by Rohingya militants on border police posts on October 9, 2016, the Burmese military undertook a series of “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State. Security forces summarily executed men, women, and children; looted property; and burned down at least 1,500 homes and other buildings. More than 69,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while another 23,000 have become internally displaced in Maungdaw district.

Several women described how soldiers surrounded their villages or homes, then gathered the villagers in an outdoor area, separating men from women, and detained them for up to several hours. Soldiers often shot villagers, and raped and gang raped women and girls. “Ayesha,” a Rohingya woman in her 20s, told Human Rights Watch: “They gathered all the women and started beating us with bamboo sticks and kicking us with their boots. After beating us, the military took [me and] 15 women about my age and separated us.… [The soldiers] raped me one by one, tearing my clothes.”

During raids on homes, security forces frequently beat or killed family members and raped the women. “Noor,” in her 40s, said that 20 soldiers stormed her home and grabbed her and her husband: “They took me in the yard of the home. Another two put a rifle to my head, tore off my clothes, and raped me.… They slaughtered [my husband] in front of me with a machete. Then three more men raped me.… After some time, I had severe bleeding. I had severe pain in my lower abdomen and pain in my whole body.”

The sexual violence did not appear to be random or opportunistic, but part of a coordinated and systematic attack against Rohingya, in part because of their ethnicity and religion. Many women told Human Rights Watch that soldiers threatened or insulted them with language focused on their status as Rohingya Muslims, calling them “you Bengali bitch” or “you Muslim bitch” while beating or raping them. “We will kill you because you are Muslim,” one woman said soldiers threatened. Other women said that security forces asked if they were “harboring terrorists,” then proceeded to beat and rape them when they said no. A woman in her 20s who said soldiers attempted to rape her in her home, added that they told her, “You are just raising your kids to kill us, so we will kill your kids.”

Burmese authorities have taken no evident steps to seriously investigate allegations of sexual violence or other abuses reported by nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch. A national-level investigation commission on the situation in Maungdaw district headed by the first vice president and comprised of current and former government officials released an interim report on January 3, 2017. The commission claims to have addressed rape allegations and “interviewed local villagers and women using various methods … [but found] insufficient evidence to take legal action up to this date.” Also contrary to the findings of human rights groups, the commission rejected reports of serious abuses and religious persecution, and said there were no cases of malnutrition.

On December 26, 2016, the Information Committee of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi issued a press release addressing “the rumours that some women were raped during the area clearance operations of security forces following the violent attacks in Maungtaw Township.” Accompanied by an image stating “Fake Rape,” the release claimed that the investigation commission had interviewed two women who gave conflicting testimony as to whether they had been raped, and that village leaders later refuted their accounts. However, video footage of the commission’s visit shows an interviewer asking one of the women about violence against other women she witnessed, not her personal experience. Nothing in her video testimony suggests she lied in her interview. The interview appears confrontational, and out of keeping with accepted guidelines on how to conduct interviews with victims of sexual violence. The problematic circumstances under which authorities conducted these interviews, as well as the risks to the women, including when authorities exposed their names and identities to the media, raise serious doubts about the credibility of the Information Committee’s press release.

“The government should stop contesting these rape allegations and instead provide survivors with access to necessary support, health care, and other services,” Motaparthy said.

Rohingya victims of sexual assault face limited access to emergency health care including to prevent unwanted pregnancy from rape and infection with HIV, and to treat other sexually transmitted infections. Though the Burmese government has permitted some aid to go through to northern Rakhine State, it continues to obstruct international assistance from reaching the civilian population. It is unknown how many rape survivors remain in the area and whether they have received appropriate health care. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed had access to medical facilities until they reached Bangladesh. Many reported that in Bangladesh, they lacked information about services available, or could not arrange child care or pay transportation costs to clinics.

“The government’s failure to investigate rape and other crimes against the Rohingya should make it clear to Burma’s friends and donors that an independent, international inquiry is desperately needed to get to the bottom of these appalling abuses,” Motaparthy said.

Rape and Sexual Assault Against Rohingya Women and Girls in Northern Rakhine State

The following incidents took place between October 9 and mid-December 2016. Pseudonyms are used to protect those interviewed, as well as to protect their relatives who remain in Burma from possible government reprisals.

Cases of Rape and Gang Rape

Human Rights Watch interviewed nine Rohingya women who said that Burmese security force members had raped or gang raped them during attacks on their villages in Rakhine State. Several women described how security forces forcibly entered their homes, looted their belongings, and subjected women to invasive body searches before raping one or more women or girls in the family. Fatima, a Rohingya woman in her 20s, described an assault by soldiers against her and her young children in Kyet Yoe Pyin village in mid-November. She said:

Four soldiers attacked and suddenly entered the house. One grabbed the children, two of them grabbed each of my arms.… They were armed with rifles, pistols, small and long knives, and some were wearing ammunition belts. 
My eldest [5-year-old] daughter screamed and said, “Please leave us.” … So they killed her … with a machete. They slaughtered her in front of me. 
When they killed her, I became very upset. [The soldiers] said many things to me that I could not understand and put a gun to my head.… They kicked me in my hip and back, and beat me on the head with a wooden stick. 
[Then] one of the soldiers tore off my clothes. Two soldiers raped me, one by one. They were about 30 to 35 years old. They touched too many places in a very painful way – they touched my chest, they touched my vaginal area. They did it quickly, they only opened their zippers – they didn’t take their pants off. When another soldier tried to rape me, I resisted. Then they burned my leg with plastic, they put it out on my leg.

Noor, in her 40s, said that about 20 soldiers stormed her home in the border town of Shein Kar Li in early December, and grabbed her and her husband:

Two of them held my arms tightly. I couldn’t move. They took me in the yard of the home. Another two put a rifle to my head, tore off my clothes, and raped me.… While they held me, my husband was also held. They slaughtered him in front of me with a machete. Then three more men raped me. I began bleeding severely. After some time, I didn’t know what was happening, I fell unconscious.… I regained consciousness the next morning. I took my gold jewelry, went to the nearby ghat [stairs leading to the river], and gave it to the boatman [so that I could cross to Bangladesh]. I walked there very slowly, as I was in pain. I had severe pain in my lower abdomen and pain in my whole body.

Witnesses also described security forces gathering women together in public areas – in paddy fields or school courtyards – and detaining them before selecting some women to rape. Ayesha, a woman in her 20s from Pyaung Pyit village, said:

They gathered all the women and started beating us with bamboo sticks and kicking us with their boots. In total they beat about 100 to 150 women, young boys, and girls. After beating us, the military took me and 15 women about my age and separated us [from the group]. 
They took us to a nearby school, kept us in the burning sun, standing in the field in front. They made us turn to face the sun. Then three soldiers took me to a nearby pond. 
When they prepared to rape me, they opened their pants. All I could notice was their underwear. When one finished raping me, I resisted with my leg, and one of them punched me in the eye.… One of them kicked my knee and I got hurt. They also bit my face and scratched me with their nails. 
I started bleeding. When I started severely bleeding from my genital area and leg, they left me. I became senseless. When I came to, I found my clothes torn around me. I found my skirt and wrapped my body in that.

Ayesha said that her abdomen and vaginal area had become red and swollen, and that she remained in pain for at least a week after the attack.

One woman in her 30s from Kyet Yoe Pyin village said that four soldiers raped her, then one raped her again by inserting the barrel of his rifle into her vagina.

Rape of Girls

Five people told Human Rights Watch they saw security forces raping or sexually assaulting girls as young as 13, or saw girls taken away, heard their screams, and learned soon afterward that they had been raped. Some of these victims were their family members.

Sayeda, a woman in her 40s from Kyet Yoe Pyin village, said that in mid-November soldiers gang raped her 16-year-old daughter in front of her, then burned her house:

After evening prayer time, the military came and surrounded our house, then entered. Three soldiers grabbed me and my [seven] daughters, and took us to the paddy field. They beat us with their rifles. 
On the spot in front of me, four military raped [my eldest daughter]. Then one soldier took her to another place. When the soldiers attacked her, I grabbed my other daughters and ran. We ran into the bushes. Other people later told me she died. I didn’t see her body.

Amina, a woman in her 20s from Hpar Wut Chaung village, said that soldiers raped and killed her 13-year-old sister during a raid on their home in early December, as well as killing five other siblings. She said:

When they entered [our house], our brothers were sleeping on the veranda, and we [five sisters] were in the bed. They shot and killed my [brothers] and held the girls so they couldn’t move. 
They instantly shot my younger sister in the head. While [another sister was] running away, they shot [her too]. 
They took my other [13-year-old] sister to another room and raped her there. We heard [her screaming]. She screamed, “Someone save me! He’s trying to take my clothes off!” What I saw from outside is that 10 more people entered that room with my sister.

Amina and her father managed to escape and fled to a neighboring village. There, her next-door neighbor who also fled told her that she had found Amina’s sister dead, without any clothes on.

Sexual Assault

Several women told Human Rights Watch that security forces subjected them to invasive body searches during village raids, either in their homes or while villagers were gathered in open fields. Soldiers put their hands underneath women’s clothes and painfully pressed their breasts and genital areas – searches that constitute sexual assault. They beat or slapped some women, and threatened them with machetes and guns. They also snatched gold jewelry women wore, and took money they kept in their blouses. Some women said they were searched twice.

Taslima, a woman in her mid-20s from Dar Gyi Zar village, said that in early November, after she fled to the nearby village of Yae Twin Kyun, soldiers came to the house where she was staying and dragged her and other women from the village out into the yard:

When [the military] entered the house, one soldier searched my body for gold and jewelry, and asked for money. When I didn’t give it to them, soldiers grabbed me and searched my body. They searched under my clothes … they pressed my chest very badly. They found where I hid my money in my chest. They also touched my hips and sensitive area [genital area].

She said they then dragged her outside: “There were about 10 to 12 women standing in the yard, around the same age as me. They touched us all, very bad touches. They used [their rifles] and machetes to threaten us.”

Sara, from Sin Thae Pyin village, said that in late November about 15 soldiers entered her home where she was with her mother-in-law and her 15-year-old niece. She said that they first searched the cupboards but, finding no valuables, they then searched the women’s bodies:

When they searched our bodies, a soldier was searching my chest, he put his hands inside my clothes. So I started to cry. When I started to cry, they hit us. They slapped me and my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law’s elder daughter. They took my clothes off and attempted to rape me, but I screamed very loudly, so they left.

Several women said that soldiers subjected them to intrusive body searches or other non-consensual touching. Several men and women described witnessing these searches.

Access to Care and Services

Survivors of sexual assault need access to emergency and long-term medical services, legal assistance, and social support to address injuries caused by the assault; to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections; and to collect evidence to support prosecution of perpetrators.

International organizations including the International Organization for Migration and Médecins Sans Frontières maintain or fund clinics in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, where the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch have fled. These facilities can provide essential and life-saving care, other medical treatment, and psychological counseling to sexual assault survivors. Survivors may also be referred to Bangladeshi government hospitals for more serious or long-term care.

However, while several women interviewed said they had received care at these facilities in Bangladesh, including psychological support, only one had visited medical facilities within 24 hours of being assaulted. The boatman who transported her from Burma to Bangladesh referred her to a clinic after noting the severity of her injuries, and she went there directly after crossing the border. The remaining women sought care several days after they were assaulted, after they had moved within Burma seeking safety, or after they had found a place to stay and basic necessities in Bangladesh. This placed them beyond the window during which providers can effectively administer emergency contraception (120 hours) and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (72 hours), as recommended by the World Health Organization. One woman said villagers in Burma provided her with contraceptive medication, while others took only paracetamol, a mild painkiller, after they were assaulted.

A lack of knowledge about services and how to access them has stopped women from getting care, even in Bangladesh. Many other women said they did not seek medical care, including at government or humanitarian-supported facilities in Bangladesh where they could receive treatment for free, because they believed incorrectly that they would have to pay for services, or because they did not know they could access them. Some women also cited financial difficulties paying for transport to facilities, or said that they had no one to watch their children while they visited. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed had returned to medical facilities for follow-up visits, though some said they still experienced pain or they had not completed a course of medication and needed prescription refills.

Fatima said, “Now I have urine problems. When I was at [the clinic] they gave me medicine but I didn’t properly recover my [normal urine flow].… After that I didn’t go back … because I was worried about paying for medicine.” Mumtaz said, “I still feel pain in my shoulder and chest [where they beat me] … also in my lower abdomen and back. Now my medicine is finished but I have no money to consult with the doctor, and [I can’t] leave my child home alone.”

Those interviewed also said they did not return for follow-up psychological counseling, even when they continued to experience nightmares about violent incidents or other signs of trauma. Many of the women interviewed said they did not know what counseling was. One woman who received an initial counseling session said she would not return because she felt too overwhelmed by the hardships she faced, and did not feel up to returning. “I won’t visit again. I feel weak, too tired to go,” she said.

Most of the women interviewed said they had come to Bangladesh only with their children, or with other female family members, and struggled to provide for themselves and their children. Their husbands or other male family members had either been killed by the Burmese military or had been separated from them during the violence. Many women no longer knew their husbands’ whereabouts or if they were still alive. Several interviewees who fled with only their children struggled to meet their basic food and shelter needs. They said they survived through limited charity distributions, by begging, or by sending a young child to the local bazaar to beg.

Concerned governments and international agencies should continue to support medical and psychosocial care for survivors of sexual violence in Burma, including those who have fled to Bangladesh. More efforts are also needed to encourage and educate those who may need services about how they can access them.

February 3, 2017

GENEVA – Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh.

Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.

Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.” In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?” High Commissioner Zeid said, noting the report suggests the recent level of violence to be unprecedented.

“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”

After the repeated failure of the Government of Myanmar to grant the UN Human Rights Office unfettered access to the worst-affected areas of northern Rakhine State, High Commissioner Zeid deployed a team of human rights officers to the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, where an estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled since 9 October 2016.

All the individuals interviewed by the team had fled Myanmar after the 9 October attacks against three border guard posts, which had prompted intense military operations and a lockdown in north Maungdaw. The military indicated that it was conducting “area clearance operations” in the region.

The report cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock. 

“Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses,” the report states. “Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.”

Several people were killed in indiscriminate and random shooting, many while fleeing for safety. Those who suffered serious physical injuries had almost no access to emergency medical care, and many of the people interviewed remained visibly traumatized by the human rights violations they survived or witnessed. People who did not know the fate of loved ones who had been rounded up by the army or separated while fleeing were particularly distressed.

Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?” The violence since 9 October follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine State, the report notes.*

Reports suggest that operations by security forces in the area have continued into January 2017, although their intensity and frequency may have reduced. 

“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”

The report concludes that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.


Full report here:

December 22, 2016

Video Testimony Matches Satellite Images of Attacks

New York –The Burmese military has conducted a campaign of arson, killings, and rape against ethnic Rohingya that has threatened the lives of thousands more, Human Rights Watch said today. Refugees who fled the recent violence told Human Rights Watch that since the October 9, 2016 attacks by Rohingya militants on government border guard posts in northern Rakhine State, Burmese security forces have retaliated by inflicting horrific abuses on the Rohingya population.

People stand among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar. © 2016 Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Burma’s government should immediately allow unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of northern Rakhine State as the United Nations and others have urged, in order to reach people without adequate access to food, shelter, health care, and other necessities. Governments with influence in Burma should press the military and civilian authorities to urgently end abuses and grant access.

“Refugee accounts paint a horrific picture of an army that is out of control and rampaging through Rohingya villages,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Burmese government says its crackdown is in response to a security threat, but what security advantage could possibly be gained by raping and killing women and children?”

The Burmese military has conducted a campaign of arson, killing and rape against ethnic Rohingya that has threatened the lives of thousands. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed a dozen Rohingya refugees who had recently arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township. In video testimony, Rohingya residents described Burmese soldiers using automatic weapons, looting and burning homes, killing villagers, including entire families, and raping women and girls.

“Kasim,” 26, described the military’s destruction of homes in the village of Kyet Yoe Pyin, also known as Kari Paraung, and other abuses. “The military came into the village and shot indiscriminately whomever they found. Elderly and children were shot dead…. Many people were killed,” he said. “[The soldiers] dragged the women from the houses by their hair. They took off the women’s clothes and longyi [sarongs]. They trampled their necks. They pulled up their blouses and removed their bras. They raped them right there in the yard.”

Another resident of the same village, “Jamal,” 24, watched soldiers arrest Shukur, a 55-year-old man: “I saw that he was arrested by four soldiers. Then I saw him lying on the ground. After that, I saw them slaughter him with a knife that was about one-and-half feet long.”

“Jawad,” 23, a resident of Dar Gyi Zar village, said that soldiers were shooting indiscriminately when they entered his village. “They didn’t spare the young ones,” he said. He watched from an embankment as soldiers killed his older brother and his two children, and then tossed their bodies into a fire. The soldiers also burned crops and dispersed cultivated rice so that it could not be harvested. No crops were spared and cows were shot, he said.

Several refugees said that government security forces were sometimes accompanied on raids by ethnic Rakhine Buddhist civilians, and Mro or other non-Rohingya villagers. They were often involved in looting Rohingya homes but also took part in other abuses. Kasim said that during a raid he and his neighbors recognized some non-Rohingya people from nearby villages wearing ordinary clothes.

The Burmese government has failed to keep its public commitment to allow the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office with a full protection mandate despite the UN General Assembly urging it to do so in a December 2015 resolution that was adopted without a vote. The UN special rapporteur on Burma, Yanghee Lee, reported in August 2016 that the prompt creation of such an office “could give vital assistance to the Government in addressing the complex and wide-ranging human rights challenges” facing the country. Burmese authorities should immediately invite the UN human rights office to send staff to northern Rakhine State to investigate and publicly report back on abuses by all sides.

On December 1, the government announced the creation of a committee to investigate the situation in Rakhine State and report by January 31, 2017. On December 16, the Myanmar Times reported that the committee, after a three-day visit to Maungdaw Township, concluded that military clearance operations had been conducted “lawfully.” This summary rejection of allegations, as well as concerns about the committee’s composition and mandate, raise serious doubts that its investigation will be thorough and impartial. A similar commission created by the Rakhine State parliament in October has also thus far failed to seriously investigate alleged military abuses.

A Rohingya Muslim woman looks on as she waits to enter the Kutupalang Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
© 2016 Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

On December 16, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said: “The repeated dismissal of the claims of serious human rights violations as fabrications, coupled with the failure to allow our independent monitors access to the worst affected areas in northern Rakhine, is highly insulting to the victims and an abdication of the Government’s obligations under international human rights law.” He further characterized the Burmese government’s response as “short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous.”

The ongoing military operations have had a major impact on the local population. Since October 9, authorities have kept Maungdaw Township in a state of virtual lockdown, curtailed freedom of movement, blocked humanitarian aid, and denied entry to journalists and human rights monitors. Tens of thousands of peoplehave been displaced internally, but government and military restrictions on aid agencies have prevented them from conducting adequate needs assessments. The UN has reported that an estimated 27,000 Rohingya have become refugees in Bangladesh. Humanitarian organizations told Human Rights Watch that while some aid is reaching Maungdaw Township, the worst affected areas are still receiving no assistance. Since early October, the UN and other international NGOs have been unable to reach 130,000 highly vulnerable people in northern Maungdaw Township who previously received food, cash, and nutrition assistance. Limited government access has allowed some assistance to resume for only 20,000 of the 150,000 people that normally receive aid.

Burma’s failure to end military abuses against Rohingya and hold those responsible to account demands an independent inquiry with UN participation. National and state governments have appointed commissions that are neither credible nor independent to look into allegations of abuses.

“The government’s failure to appoint credible commissions to thoroughly and impartially investigate the allegations undermines claims that it is building a country based on the rule of law,” Adams said. “However, it is not too late to reverse course and allow aid agencies and impartial observers into affected areas to document what has happened and ensure the delivery of food, medicine, and other life-saving services.”

Testimonies by Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

The accounts below are drawn from interviews Human Rights Watch carried out in Bangladesh between December 2 and 6, 2016. All names are pseudonyms unless stated otherwise. Interviews were conducted with interpreters.

Abu Hafsah

Abu Hafsah and his family endured a 43-day journey from their village before reaching Bangladesh. On October 9, Hafsah, 46, heard distant gunfire while at home in Kyet Yoe Pyin, a village within the Kyet Yoe Pyin village tract of Maungdaw Township. Frightened, he moved his family into hiding among the bushes and, when gunshots got closer, to hills around the village. They returned home on October 11, but the gunshots continued sporadically. Soldiers entered the village that day. He said he later heard loud explosions coming from an adjacent village and saw hundreds of soldiers: “There was no place where there was no military.”

On October 12, the soldiers returned. In the evening they started firing rocket launchers and automatic weapons at villagers and their homes. Villagers fled to escape injury. Abu Hafsah said that bullets were whizzing past him and he jumped into the forest to avoid being hit: “They shot [ordinary people]. Not anyone else. We have nothing. They fired [rocket] launchers from some distance and more closely with guns. We thought that day they would kill all of us.”

Abu Hafsah said that the next morning, soldiers fatally shot six of his acquaintances when they emerged from hiding to tend to their cattle. Abu Hafsah and his family then decided to flee Kyet Yoe Pyin, leaving with only with the clothes they were wearing. They sought refuge in a nearby village, where they stayed for about 10 days. Abu Hafsah then returned briefly to Kyet Yoe Pyin, hoping the situation had improved. He estimates that hundreds of homes and shops in the village were burned to the ground. Satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch shows large burn scars consistent with arson attacks confirming that at least 245 buildings were destroyed in Kyet Yoe Pyin between October 9 and 14.

Abu Hafsah and his family then decided to flee Burma and go to Kumar Khali along the border in Bangladesh. He said throughout the journey, military patrols, forcing the family to move from one place to another and hide in the hills or forest. Throughout their 43-day journey, food was scarce and they often only had water to drink. Once in Kumar Khali, they pleaded with local villagers to help them cross the border. Eventually, the family put together the 25,000 Burmese kyat (US$18) per person to pay an agent to get them across the Naf River. They crossed by boat, eventually reaching Tolatuli in Bangladesh on November 24.


Rohima, 50, from Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son village, said the military entered her home, tied up her husband, and shot and killed him. She then watched as soldiers dragged her four adult sons out of the house. She and the other women in the house were crying, but she could not do anything to stop them, she said. The soldiers then moved the women into another house and fired rocket launchers at the house, but she survived. She came out of that house and saw the soldiers set fire to her property.

Rohima said she then went to the pond beside her house and found piles of bodies that had been set on fire with straw. She could smell burning skin. She said that soldiers killed her four sons and her husband: Shoona Ali, 35; Ijjod Ali, 25; Syed Ali, 30; Musa Ali, 45; and Yusuf Ali, 60.

Hiding in someone else’s home, Rohima watched soldiers rampage through the village. “They cut the children with their knives. Then they threw them into the fire,” she said.

She said she saw Rakhine villagers entering with the military, including some whose faces she recognized wearing military uniforms. They were dragging people from houses and using belts to beat people, she said.

Rohima decided to flee Burma with her extended family and eventually reached Kumar Khali. They did not have any money to pay for the crossing, but others helped them to cross. All 15 family members crossed the river and arrived in Bangladesh on November 25.


Abdul, 30, fled his home in Kyet Yoe Pyin village when soldiers entered the town and began firing their weapons. “They shot at us while we were escaping from the village,” he said. Some were killed while others managed to escape.

Making it to the outskirts of Kyet Yoe Pyin, Abdul hid on a hillside. The gunfire increased throughout the day. He said solders were beating and shooting at villagers. The next day, he watched from the hillside as soldiers in green uniforms with red shoulder patches set homes on fire and shot at people. “At first, they fired at the houses with rocket launchers from some distance,” he said. “When they fired, people ran away. Then they came into the village and poured gasoline and set fire to the houses.”

Abdul said he watched as the soldiers burned a mosque. He saw them physically abuse women. Fearful of further violence, he fled north: “We understood that we had no way to return.” He traveled through several villages, but soldiers were present until he reached Kumar Khali. There he was reunited with his wife, who told him that soldiers had slit the throat of their 4-year-old son when they were trying to flee the village. The couple then crossed by boat to Bangladesh.


After the October 9 violence, Kasim, 26, watched the military approach Kyet Yoe Pyin from the south in vehicles. After arriving, they encircled his village. Kasim said that when soldiers entered the village on October 12, he watched them destroy homes. Soldiers started firing rocket launchers, causing the men to flee and the women to hide in their homes. Kasim said he hid in a nearby paddy field. Before noon, soldiers set the local market on fire. “On the first day, the military came into the village and set fire to the houses by shooting rocket launchers,” he said. “Some set fire to the houses. Some went inside the houses and looted them.”

Kasim said the soldiers also attacked local residents:

The military were shooting indiscriminately at whomever they found. Elderly people and children were being shot dead…. Many people were killed. They killed many people. The bullets hit people in the chest, stomach, back, head and neck. They shot from 100 yards, 200 yards, and longer distances.

The abuses continued. Because soldiers were tearing down the fences that surrounded homes, he had a clear view as soldiers dragged women out of houses:

They dragged the women out of the houses by their hair. They took off the women’s clothes and longyis [sarongs]. They trampled their necks. They pulled up their blouses and removed their bras. They raped them right there in the yard.

Kasim said he saw soldiers shoot his wife in the chest, killing her and his young daughter whom she was carrying in her arms. He said he also saw a nearby house, occupied by six women, being looted. He said soldiers shot all six women inside.

Kasim said he saw people in ordinary clothes enter the town with the soldiers. He and his neighbors recognized some people from nearby villages among them. These villagers, together with the soldiers, looted homes and in some cases dragged women from houses.

Kasim then decided to flee to Bangladesh. He moved from village to village, hiding in the surrounding hills for days at a time while trying to avoid the military at nearly every village in which he stayed. After reaching a village near the border, he escaped across the Naf River to Bangladesh with 13 members of his extended family. He arrived in Bangladesh on November 30.


Jamal, 24, saw the military approach from the eastern side of Kyet Yoe Pyin village two days after the October 9 attacks. Some came on foot, while others rode dark-colored trucks, the kind, he said, that were used for transporting goats and other livestock. A set of different trucks carrying people others recognized as ethnic Rakhine villagers arrived about the same time. When the military entered the town, Jamal hid in a prawn lake (a small pond where shrimp is produced and farmed) with others, covering himself with palm leaves so that the soldiers could not see them, but he could see what was happening.

He said that the soldiers first deployed on a hill next to the village and fired rocket launchers at structures. They then entered the village and began setting fire to houses, fired rocket launchers and shot at people as they swept through the village. Villagers were either beaten or shot in the streets.

Jamal said that the previous night his uncle brought two female family members home. One was pregnant and gave birth that night. When the soldiers came in the morning, the men left, assuming that the women would not be harmed. From their hiding place, Jamal and the others watched soldiers kill and rape the female villagers. “First, they slaughtered two women. One woman wasn’t dead, so they tried to rape her. She pretended to be dead. They raped her and left her. Then they slaughtered three more [women].” Jamal and others returned the next day, they found the woman who had given birth recently to be alive. However, he says she died shortly thereafter, but her newborn baby survived. He said he also saw soldiers throw three children into a burning house.

Jamal said that Shukur, 55, who was hiding with them in a field, attempted to walk back to the village, but he was stopped along the way and killed by four soldiers. Jamal said:

We all told him not to go. We warned him how the military was killing people. His sons and daughters also tried to stop him. He said, “I am an old man, what will they do to me?” Then he left. The military stopped him when he reached a shop. I saw that he was arrested by four soldiers. Then I saw him lying down on the ground. After that, I saw them slaughter him with a knife about one-and-half feet long.

Jamal described seeing many women assembled in an area after the men fled, and soldiers rushing to the area. He said the soldiers “repressed” the women (a common euphemism for rape) and otherwise abused them, causing some women to faint.

Jamal fled Kyet Yoe Pyin and later saw the military in several other villages. In at least two villages, including Dar Gyi Zar, Jamal saw helicopters firing automatic weapons from the air. The gunshots, he said, were like a flurry of sparks. He watched the helicopter firing at people hiding and trying to flee from the military. “They would shoot anything moving,” he said.

Jamal was eventually able to flee to Bangladesh from a village bordering the Naf River in Maungdaw Township. His family had no money, but received help from other villagers to pay the 25,000 Burmese kyat (US$18) per person to have someone help them across. Jamal arrived in Bangladesh on December 1 with 13 other members of his family.


Kamal, 32, said that when the military entered Kyet Yoe Pyin village on October 11, he ran from the advancing soldiers, attempting to hide. He watched soldiers burn houses, beat people, and shoot them as they fled. Eight to 10 soldiers surrounded his house. Then they soaked articles of clothing in jars of gasoline, lit them on fire, and threw them on the roof, setting his home ablaze.

He said that his brother, who had recently contracted malaria, was lying in the yard outside his house when the soldiers arrived. Kamal watched as they tied his brother up with a rope and then shot him. He then fled to a nearby home shared with relatives and from this vantage point watched soldiers arrest other villagers, tie them up with rope, and carry some away to waiting vehicles. He saw about five soldiers enter an uncle’s house, adjacent to his hiding place, and arrest two of his uncles. In total, he saw about nine people taken away, and heard that another 60 had been arrested. The soldiers then torched the market by firing rocket launchers at it. He saw metal scraps he believes were from the rockets on the ground and lodged in the coconut trees.

He and his family left Kyet Yoe Pyin for eight days. They decided to return to the village, but soldiers also soon returned. He said the military attempted to gather and abuse the “sisters and daughters” of the village. The villagers resisted by screaming at the soldiers.

When it became clear that there was not enough food to feed all his family members, Kamal and his family decided to leave for Bangladesh. “Subsistence was not possible,” he said. They evaded security forces in Burma, and paid 26,000 Burmese kyat (US$19) to be taken across the border by boat.


Ali, 52, said the military arrived in Kyet Yoe Pyin on a night when he and his family of 13 were leaving on foot to deliver some business documents to Bora Para, a neighboring village where his father-in-law lives. As they set out, they saw the military approaching in vehicles. Although it was hard to tell, he thinks there were about 100 soldiers.

After Ali and his family arrived in Bora Para, they heard gunfire. There was so much shooting that he said “the soil was trembling.” They were so panicked they decided to stay with his father-in-law. The gunshots lasted for four days. When the gunfire intensified, Ali and his family fled to Jamoinna, a neighboring village. From there, he could see soldiers – he estimates about 400 to 500 – moving around Kyet Yoe Pyin.

After eight days in Jamoinna, Ali went back to Kyet Yoe Pyin. He found that about three-quarters of the homes were burned. Other villagers that returned to Kyet Yoe Pyin had to borrow cooking utensils just to eat because theirs had been destroyed or were gone.

Ali said he and the other villagers found corpses all over the village. Some were in shallow graves. Foxes dragged some of the bodies out of the graves, while others had various body parts protruding from shallow earthen tombs. One grave had four corpses, all of which had been beheaded. Some of the limbs appeared to have been eaten by foxes and dogs. Ali and the others identified the bodies as those of Kadir Hussein, 60; Nur Alam, 50; Kala Mian, 30; and Mohamed Rashid, 26. He heard that Shukur, 55, had been executed, but they never found his body. They dug deeper graves and placed the bodies they could find in them. Many bodies of the missing were not found, but the longyi and other garments of those missing were found among the dead and throughout the village. Ali and the other villagers tried to gather the names of those that no one had heard from or seen since the violence. In total, they counted 76 people missing.

Ali said that on a subsequent Saturday, the military raided the village and arrested about 80 men. Several of his relatives were arrested, including three cousins and his son-in-law.

Ali and his family eventually fled to Bangladesh. He paid a trafficker 25,000 kyat (US$18) per person to get his family across the river. They arrived in Bangladesh on December 3.


Kháled, 26, said that the military first came to Myaw Taung village tract to impose a curfew. They returned the next day and started shooting people “without giving them a chance.” People were fleeing in every direction they could, he said.

Kháled saw the military firing rocket launchers at homes, setting them on fire. After the soldiers would fire rocket launchers, ethnic Rakhine and Mro villagers, whom Kháled said he saw alongside the soldiers, would loot the homes.

While he was hiding in a nearby outdoor toilet, his elder brother came out of his house to investigate what was happening. Kháled heard gunfire and fled up the hill behind his house. When he looked back, he saw that his brother had been shot and killed. The soldiers, he said, left his brother’s wife half-dead after raping her and shot and killed Kháled’s 5-year-old son. He said that the soldiers threw the bodies of his brother and 5-year-old son along with others into the fire.

After the violence, Kháled decided to flee to Bangladesh. While he was waiting to cross a river at the border, he saw that people in another boat had been caught by Burma’s Border Guard Police and “beaten to black and blue.” So Kháled’s group waited. Three days later, on November 28, they crossed into Bangladesh.


Jawad, 23, cannot remember the exact date that the military first entered his village, Dar Gyi Zar, but said that about 500 soldiers arrived during morning prayers. He said the soldiers shot people and set fire to houses. They fired rocket launchers and threw lit bamboo sticks onto rooftops. By the time they were done, all the houses in his village were burned down, he said. He watched them shoot an old man sitting in front of his door. “They didn’t spare the young ones,” he said. “They slaughtered infants with large knives and threw the bodies of the dead into fires.”

Jawad watched from an embankment as the military shot his older brother, Mohamed. He says that Mohamed was with his son and daughter when the military called out. He stopped and they shot him. They then took Mohamed’s son and daughter and killed them with a large knife, Jawad said, tossing their bodies into a fire. He doesn’t know why his brother was killed. “The military did this, they should know,” he said.

Jawad said the military “tortured” and abused women and girls, especially those that looked pretty. Two women who saw the deaths of Mohammed and his children were taken by the military. One was beaten with the bottom of the soldier’s rifle. The other was dragged into a house. Jawad saw altogether about 15 soldiers enter the house. From his hiding place he could hear the woman screaming. The soldiers emerged one hour later. After another hour, Jawad and an elderly woman entered the house to tend to the victim. They tried to get the woman to a doctor, but she died. He believes the soldiers gang-raped her.

In mid to late November, Jawad saw soldiers going into the fields disguised as farmers and then arresting people harvesting their crops with machetes. The soldiers then set fire to the crops. Other soldiers took stored rice and threw it away in such a manner that it could not be gathered. No crops were spared and cows were shot, he said.

After being sent back once by the Border Guard Bangladesh force, Jawad crossed into Bangladesh in late November after paying an agent 25,000 kyat (US$18).


Chomi, 35, watched on November 13 as approximately 400 soldiers encircled his village of Dar Gyi Zar. He fled and watched from a field as the military fired rocket launchers at homes and saw at least 10 people shot. “They shot whomever they saw,” he said.

Chomi said that during the raid, the soldiers killed entire families including Abul Hussein and his family of eight, the Yusuf family of similar size, and Moulavi Saleh Ahmed’s family.

Chomi fled Dar Gyi Zar with his family on November 13 and headed north. They stayed with relatives for two days, but the village administrator asked them to leave, so the family lived in a field. Chomi estimates that about 2,000 other people lived with them in the field for 10 days. The township and district then ordered them to return home.

On November 23, before being ordered to return home, Chomi watched from a hill to see the situation in his village. He said he saw about 200 soldiers and smoke rising from the village. When he returned to his home, he found many things missing or destroyed: clothes, cooking kettles, and food had been taken. Of the 419 houses in his village, he said, only 12 were not burned. His own home, he learned, was spared until a further round of burnings on November 23. He said now it was a pile of ash and warped corrugated metal.

He went back, gathered his family and fled to Bangladesh. After crossing some barbed wire, they joined other Rohingya who made their way to two waiting boats, each carrying about 20 people, including children. Just as they began to cross the river, they were spotted by a boat full of Burmese security forces, who fired their guns in the air in the direction of the two boats. The boat then sped toward them; the wake from the speeding boat caused both Rohingya boats to capsize. Tossed from the boats, some people swam to Bangladesh, while others swam back to Burma. Some couldn’t swim and drowned. Chomi swam back to the Burmese side and hid from the military and Border Guard Police patrols. Eventually, he was able to evade the patrols and cross the border in the early hours of December 5 on a boat with eight other people.


In mid-November, the military entered Yae Khat Chaung Gwa Son village. Ahmet said that helicopters fired as 200 to 250 soldiers encircled the village. Soldiers who entered the town gathered together a large group of women. They dragged the women by their hands and scarves, tearing their clothing. He said the soldiers told the villagers they would “take” the women.

Ahmet said some villagers confronted the soldiers. In response, a helicopter flying overhead started firing. He watched the helicopter fly low, the guns on either side firing down on the villagers. The soldiers then began burning houses. They carried gasoline in jars and threw them on rooftops, burning them one by one. He learned that about 450 houses were burned and only 35 survived.

When the burning of the village started, he and his family fled to a village on the border with Bangladesh. They waited for about 15 days and then left for Bangladesh, arriving on December 1.


19 December 2016

This report documents a campaign of violence by the Myanmar security forces against Rohingya since 9 October 2016. Soldiers and police have randomly fired on and killed civilians, raped women and girls, torched whole villages and arbitrarily arrested Rohingya men without any information about their whereabouts or charges. These actions have been a form of collective punishment targeting Rohingya in northern Rakhine state, and may amount to crimes against humanity.


December 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released two reports highlighting Burma’s serious religious freedom challenges. 

Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma highlights the pervasive and longstanding persecution and discrimination Christians face that have persisted, often unreported, for generations. View the report here in English and Burmese

Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma details the persecution of Rohingya Muslims’ resulting from government-directed abuses and/or government indifference to discrimination and violence that has killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and destroyed hundreds of religious properties since 2012. View the report here in English and Burmese

From Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma

The enduring, constitutionally entrenched power of the military and the elevation of Buddhism as the de facto state religion are key factors in understanding violations of religious freedom currently affecting Christian communities in Burma…Many of the discriminatory policies and practices instituted under the military regime continue today… The Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, and other ultra-nationalistic monks have played a key role in abusing the right to religious freedom and inciting violence against Christian pastors and missionaries.

From Suspended in Time: The Ongoing Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma:

More than four years ago, two waves of sectarian violence struck Rakhine State. In the time since, Rohingya Muslims, Rakhine Buddhists, and individuals of other ethnicities and beliefs throughout the state have suffered grievous deprivations of basic rights, including inadequate access to food, water, shelter, education, and health care; restrictions on freedom of movement; denial of needed humanitarian aid; limited opportunities to obtain an education or earn a living; egregious human rights abuses resulting in death, injury, and displacement; and, in the case of Rohingya Muslims, the denial of the right to a nationality and citizenship.

Rohingya Exodus