After nearly 50 years of military rule, Burma’s democratic transition continues to face many challenges, including atrocities and other serious human rights abuses in Rakhine State committed against the Rohingya minority.
In his remarks marking the release of the annual State Department Human Rights Report, then Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan condemned the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and all the atrocities committed against them. The U.S. is working with its partners to address the crisis and hold those responsible accountable.
The human rights report for Burma notes that in early August some security forces deployed throughout northern Rakhine State committed enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests and displaced villagers, the majority of whom were Rohingya. On August 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks against 30 security outposts in northern Rakhine State, killing 12 security personnel. Security forces, as well as local vigilante groups acting independently or in concert with security forces, then committed widespread atrocities against Rohingya villagers, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, and burning of tens of thousands of homes and some religious structures and other buildings.
This forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh as of April 18, as well as an unknown number of other ethnic minority groups to be displaced within Rakhine State
The Burma human rights report documented other significant human rights abuses in 2017: unlawful killings; politically motivated arrests; authorities’ human rights violations against civilians in other ethnic minority areas, particularly in Kachin State and Shan State. Journalists have suffered intimidation and arrest. Freedom of religion, speech and assembly continued to be restricted. Harsh conditions in prisons and labor camps persisted. Statelessness for some populations and severe restrictions on freedom of movement continued. The government still criminalized same-sex sexual activities and trafficking in persons continued to be an issue.
The protection of human rights is crucial to the success of any democracy. The United States wants Burma’s democracy to succeed, and it is critical that the government continue reforms and demonstrate respect for human rights, including the rights of its Rohingya minority.