Sectarian Violence in Western Burma

[UPDATE below]

Ten Burmese Muslims were lynched yesterday in Taunggote, Arakan State, in western Burma.

According to news reports, the lynch mob comprised 300 Buddhist Arakanese men and women who were seeking revenge for the rape and murder of an Arakanese woman. The victims, who were on a pilgrimage from Rangoon, were pulled off a bus and beaten to death. An Arakan group allegedly distributed leaflets calling attention to the rape, which may have incited the mob.

Muslims protested yesterday at a mosque in Rangoon, calling for justice for the victims. They also protested the use of racial slurs in state-run media reports that described the incident.

Historically in Western Burma, the State has targeted Muslims for forced labor and extortion, and has denied them citizenship and freedom to travel. These abuses have continued despite the changes in some government policies in Rangoon, and the use of racial slurs by the state media bodes ill for justice for the victims. Local media have not reported if an investigation is underway.

PHR calls for the police and the judiciary to investigate and prosecute those responsible for this crime. The government of Burma should treat all of its citizens equally, and ensure all have access to justice. This is a good time to start.

UPDATE: Burmese state media issued a retraction for using a racial slur to describe Muslims who were lynched earlier this week.

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