Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday accused Myanmar's government and security forces [press release] of being complicit in attacks on Rohingya Muslims in October that forced 35,000 people from their homes. Based on satellite imagery of Muslim communities in Myanmar's Arakan State, HRW claimed that in some cases, Myanmar soldiers destroyed Rohingya homes and committed violence against civilians. In the press release, HRW Asia Director Brad Adams [official profile] chastised Myanmar's government for claiming to respect human rights while simultaneously condoning ethnic and religious violence:
The satellite images and eyewitness accounts reveal that local mobs at times with official support sought to finish the job of removing Rohingya from these areas. The central government's failure to take serious action to ensure accountability for the...violence fostered impunity, and makes it responsible for later attacks not only when security forces were directly involved but also when they weren’t.US President Barack Obama [official profile] is scheduled to visit Myanmar on Monday. HRW has urged Obama [AP report] to threaten sanctions against Myanmar unless the government stops its attacks on Rohingya.
Concern over Myanmar's human rights record has been growing recently. Earlier this week Myanmar announced [JURIST report] that it would free 452 prisoners ahead of Obama's visit. However, human rights groups expressed disappointment [AP report] that the government has not freed any of the estimated 330 political prisoners in Myanmar. Last month HRW urged Myanmar's government to do more to end sectarian violence [JURIST report] between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. In August Physicians for Human Rights reported that Myanmar's army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Earlier that month HRW accused [JURIST report] Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country's human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.