fortify logo2x1More than 40 Diverse Groups Call for a “Truly Independent” Commission of Inquiry

(YANGON, January 18, 2017)—More than 40 Myanmar-based civil society organizations today called for a “truly independent” international investigation into the situation in Rakhine State, where state-sponsored attacks against Rohingya Muslim civilians have escalated in recent months. Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State have faced human rights violations with impunity for decades.

Today’s statement recommends the establishment of a “commission of inquiry to fully assess the totality of the situation in Rakhine State and provide clear recommendations for the current government to effectively address and prevent further problems.”

“This initiative is important for the entire country," said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights. “It’s time for the government to get on board and support the establishment of an impartial and independent inquiry.”

The statement comes a day before Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—an intergovernmental body of 57 member states—will meet in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the situation of Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The diverse signatories to the statement include women-led organizations, human rights groups, academic institutions, and development organizations working throughout the country and with various ethnic communities.

Today’s statement follows an open letter to the United Nations Security Council on December 28 by a group of Nobel Laureates and global leaders—including Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and member of the international advisory board of Fortify Rights—calling for “an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation” in Rakhine State. A Burmese language version of the statement was circulated widely in Myanmar.

The call for an international commission of inquiry also gained momentum in the country following the recent publication of the preliminary findings of an investigation led by Vice President Myint Swe—a former military general and known “hardliner”—into the situation in northern Rakhine State. The government established the commission after militants attacked three police outposts, killing nine and prompting the Myanmar military to initiate an indiscriminate “clearance operation.”

Tens of thousands of civilians have since fled attacks by the Myanmar military in Maungdaw Township. In an ongoing investigation, Fortify Rights documented how the Myanmar military razed villages, killed unarmed civilians, and raped Rohingya women, among other abuses in several villages in Maungdaw Township.

On January 3, state-run media published the interim findings of the government-appointed, 13-member commission led by Myint Swe, which reported no human rights violations and denied allegations of the crime of genocide. The commission cited the presence of “the Bengali population” as well as religious leaders and mosques as “proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region.”

Myint Swe’s commission also denied allegations of malnutrition among the local Rohingya population, apparently based on visual observations of “the area’s favorable fishing and farming conditions.” The commission failed to note available empirical data and internal U.N. reports that suggest malnutrition rates in Maungdaw Township have long been at crisis level and are worsening.

Since October, Myanmar authorities have blocked access to affected areas in Maungdaw Township, denying life-saving humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Rohingya while also restricting access for human rights monitors and journalists. Despite Myanmar authorities’ repeated promises to diplomats and others to open humanitarian access to the area, aid operations remain extremely limited.

More than 65,000 Rohingya men, women, and children have fled to Bangladesh since October, joining a longstanding Rohingya refugee population of an estimated half a million people.

In August 2016, before the most recent violence in Rakhine State, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi appointed a nine-member “advisory commission” chaired by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to provide recommendations to the government on “challenges identified jointly by the Commission and the Government of Myanmar” with regard to Rakhine State. The commission comprises six Myanmar nationals and three foreigners.

In September 2016, Mr. Annan publicly clarified that his commission would not conduct a “human rights investigation” in Rakhine State. Fortify Rights confirmed the Annan Commission is not collecting evidence of human rights violations in Rakhine State.

In late October 2016, the Rakhine State Parliament also appointed its own “investigative commission,” comprising 11 state-level legislators who purported to look into the situation in Maungdaw Township with a view to “help the indigenous people who fled from the clashes”—a reference to ethnic-Rakhine Buddhists affected by the situation. On December 27, it issued its findings, reporting no abuses by state security forces.

“In three months, we’ve seen the formation of an advisory commission, a whitewash commission, and a discriminatory commission,” said Matthew Smith. “None of these bodies are conducting a serious, impartial investigation into ongoing human rights violations. The international community needs to wake up to the fact that domestic remedies have been exhausted and the situation of the Rohingya is worsening by the day.”

In October, state-run media in Myanmar alluded to Rohingya as “thorns,” and in November as “detestable human fleas.” The office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has also waged a propaganda campaign, denying wrongdoing by the state and explicitly denying rape and other human rights violations against Rohingya, despite mounting evidence.

The Government of Myanmar revoked Rohingya citizenship in 1982 and now denies them the right to self identify, instead labeling the population of approximately one million as “Bengali” interlopers from Bangladesh.

Fortify Rights called on Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, OIC member states, and members of the U.N. Human Rights Council to support the establishment of a U.N.-mandated independent investigation when the Human Rights Council convenes in March.

In October 2015, Fortify Rights and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution mandating an international commission of inquiry to assess the totality of the situation in Rakhine State, including human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. The clinic at Yale Law School found “strong evidence” to establish the elements of the crime of genocide in Rakhine State.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, Security Council, General Assembly, Secretary General, and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights all have authority to establish independent international investigations, also known as commissions of inquiry.

The U.N. has established inquiries into serious human rights violations in Libya, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Central African Republic, among others.

A U.N.-mandated investigation in Rakhine State could objectively evaluate the facts, identify perpetrators, and provide clear recommendations for action. Potential commissioners could include professional investigators, legal practitioners, forensics experts, and gender specialists from Asian countries and internationally. Fortify Rights recommends that such a commission also conduct fact-finding outside Myanmar, in countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia, to ensure a complete and comprehensive investigation into abuses that took place in Rakhine State.

“If there were ever a situation in which an independent investigation is needed, it's now in Rakhine State,” said Matthew Smith. “The international community has an opportunity to take up the call of Myanmar civil society, and it should act without delay.”

The news is based on press release by Fortify Rights

Buthi terror

January 9, 2017

A man arrested from Shab Bazar in Buthidaung is accused of being a terrorist by the State Counsellor Office Information Committee.

Mahmudullah, also known as Muhammad Ullah, 27, was arrested after he protested the assault of his elderly father Md Amin, at the hands of the military. Amin along with other villagers were being assaulted by Tatmadaw officials after they were being called to a school in the early dawn hours of Tuesday. The officials alleged the villagers of Shab Bazar had information concerning terrorists. When Mahmudullah protested the brutal beatings of his father, he was also severely assaulted and taken away by the military in a critical condition.

The next day, locals were astounded to see a Facebook post by the State Counsellor Office Information Committee depicting Mahmudullah and three others as terrorists. The post can be viewed in this link -

Mahmudullah is well liked young man in the village with a reputation of being a son of the soil despite his high education. He is one of the few people in the area with an university degree, graduating with a Physics degree from Sittwe (Akyab) university in 2012.

Many of those arrested in terror allegations are brutally tortured in custody, often leading to a slow death or getting maimed for life. It has frequently been described as a fate worse than death because of the merciless nature of the torture by security forces.

Incidentally, the State Counsellor post held by Aung San Suu Kyi is viewed as the de facto leadership of the present government.

Buthi terror

January 9, 2017

Scores of saffron clad Buddhist nationalists in Yangon forced Muslim organisers to stop a ceremony honouring the holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Shortly after the ceremony started on Sunday, the nationalists marched into the programme forcing the Muslims to cease their activities.

Security personal called to the scene refused to intervene.

"We have celebrated this festival for my whole life. Now this seems like an attack on freedom of religion," Kyaw Nyein, secretary of the Ulama Islam organisation, told AFP.

"The monks tried to stop the ceremony without saying what we had done wrong... Why aren't authorities taking action?"

Anti Muslim sentiments have gathered steam in Myanmar as Buddhist nationalists belonging to the Ma Ba Tha movement have gone on the offensive against the minority community and have received full support of the Tatmadaw which continues to wield powerful influence beneath the scene.

While Arakan state has been the hub of anti Muslim ethnic cleansing, other Muslim communities are being frequently targeted in what increasingly looks like a widening offensive.

mrauk u

January 3, 2017

Tatmadaw officials held a meeting with local Rakhine representatives in the premises of Uyittaw pagoda in Ponnagyun (Pungná cwéng) town on Monday, according to a source in the area.

During the meeting, the officials spoke of grave security threats posed by Bengali Muslims to the country. They alleged the Muslims were forming terrorist brigades to undermine the security of Myanmar and were getting armed support from across the border in Bangladesh. To protect the country from the threat, it would require the Rakhines take up weapons against the Muslims, with the blessings of the Tatmadaw.

The Rakhine representatives said they were ready for the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of the country and would not allow Arakan to become another Bangladesh. Many of the representatives present are known sympathisers of the Ma Ba Tha movement and had earlier provided manpower during the riots of 2012.

Ponnagyun is a mostly Rakhine township, with all Rohingyas concentrated in the Sidurkul village tract. In the event of a riot, the isolated Muslim community are totally cut off from any outside support and will be totally overwhelmed by hostile attackers. The village fared very badly during 2012.

When asked to comment on the matter, our correspondent in Sidurkul says none of them has any knowledge of the meeting as Rohingyas remain under blockade in their settlement for more than four years. He however opined that during the recent crackdown, the village tracts of Maungdaw North could not provide any defence against well organised Tatmadaw forces in spite of the overwhelming Muslim majority and the proximity to Bangladesh. Even though many managed to escape over the border to Bangladesh, it was no easy task and scores died trying. In light of the situation, one can only guess what will happen to places like Sidurkul where there is neither a Muslim majority, nor a border to escape.

Similar concerns have been earlier echoed by Muslims living in townships outside Maungdaw.

The meeting is a grim reminder of the helpless situation faced by the Rohingyas and other Muslim communities of Arakan who are scattered throughout the region in isolated settlements amid possible armed mobilisation of Rakhine communities.

The government had openly been floating the concept of arming Rakhine civilians.

mrauk u

fire on house 01

January 2, 2017

Rohingyas with mobile phones have been urged to take extra precautions as it is feared the security forces and village administration are making a specific list to target such men and women who are disseminating information.

Speaking to our desk, many Rohingya activists have said there are rumours that this time the security forces will carry out a crackdown against those who have taken photos and highlighted the brutal episode of ethnic cleansing carried out by Tatmadaw personal since October 9.

The crackdown has killed hundreds of Rohingyas, with many more apprehended and tortured, while numerous women have been raped and sexually molested. On the other hand, thanks to smartphones and a new generation of gallant Rohingya activists, both men and women who have risked their lives to disseminate information abroad, the atrocities have received widespread publicity leading to international outrage and diplomatic pressure on the government.

Already there are reports concerning the movement of suspicious men in the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung since last week who are maintaining close presence to the homes of Rohingya Muslims. It is suspected they are Hlun Htein personal in civilian clothes. In the villages, it is feared the government collaborators also known as tabbes will be instructed to make lists of those who are spreading information abroad.

Meanwhile in one village of Maunngdaw North, women who have disseminated information concerning rape are on the run as Hlun Htein looks very serious in apprehending them. Due to security concerns, we are unable to provide further details at this moment. fire on house 01

October 2, 2016

Eyewitnesses claim the presence of armed men in the May Yu mountain range.

On September 26, eight wood collectors from Baguinna in Maungdaw South went to the hills to collect wood when they noticed scores of armed men. The witnesses claim there were around 70 of them.

The Rohingyas hid as soon as they spotted them. Local sources claim the men are likely to be from the separatist Rakhine outfit the Arakan Army.

On the same day, local sources in Kiladong claim one of their shepherd boys witnessed around twenty armed men in the forest east of Godusera.

The presence of armed men have raised fears in the Maungdaw region as both security forces and the Arakan army have anti Muslim sentiments.aa logo

Security Force

December 31, 2016

The recent video that emerged showing Rohingya men and a child being assaulted by Hlun Htein forces have taken place in Dunsey, Rathedaung, according to reports in the Rohingya media. It was taken in the period of November 4 to November 6, when there was a joint raid by the Tatmadaw and Hlun Htein forces.

Rohingya Vision TV made the claim on Saturday, two days after the video emerged in the internet.

There is little doubt about the authenticity of the video. It was shot by a Hlun Htein personal and has somehow been leaked.

Many arrested from Dunsey have been condemned to serve long term prison sentences without any proper trial.

Relatives fear for their safety as even after being sentenced, there is continuous torture leading to the deaths of many prisoners. Former prisoners from Buthidaung jail have said each night, the prison guards removed two to three corpses who died following merciless torture.

Prisoners have said the guards generally start with the fingers and move to other body parts. Many have said they were beaten like snakes during their time in prison.

The video can be seen at

Security Force

October 9, 2016

The army attacked multiple Rohingya villages in the early hours of Sunday, killing innocent Muslim men in Maungdaw South and Rathedaung.

At around 2am, armed forces entered Baas Sara in Maungdaw South and opened fire indiscriminately at the Rohingyas. At least two were reported dead from army firing.

The sounds of gunfire alerted Rohingyas in neighbouring villages and they all fled their homes. Two truckloads carrying army personnel also entered the neighbouring village tract of Wabek and started opening fire. However, all inhabitants had already fled the area. The military responded by burning the local mosque.

Army also raided Ludaing but Rohingyas had already fled the area beforehand.

In Maungdaw North, security forces entered Naffura and fired indiscriminately. At least one person received serious injuries.

Meanwhile in Rathedaung, armed forces entered Dunse and launched a sudden raid on Rohingya houses. Four innocent people were arrested. One has reportedly been tortured to death. Torture of detainees in the custody of security forces have killed hundreds since 2012.

In the morning hours, 12 people were arrested from Siddhar para in Maungdaw town. The arrested 12 are all known to be educated people who are vocal for the rights of the local Muslim community.

AFP reports there was an attack on a police post near the Bangladesh border at around 1.30 am where nine policemen and eight insurgents were killed. The details of the attack are sketchy. The government alleges the attackers were Muslims.

Despite widespread ethnic cleansing, Rohingyas have not been known for retaliatory

praying for foodOctober 1, 2016

The Muslim villages of Anak Parang and Mujai are being gradually depopulated as severe food shortages are forcing Rohingyas to leave the area.

Our local correspondent reports Rohingyas have been cut off from all livelihood options, and there is no food aid. However, those moving out of the villages are from the relatively well off who can afford to settle somewhere else, while the poorest of the poor continue to stay on. Those left often do not eat for days, and generally depend on starch to survive.

While fishing and logging are the two remaining livelihood options for most Rohingyas in Arakan, Rakhine nationalists backed by government forces have long preyed on those who venture out of their territory to reach the rivers and forests from where they derive their livelihood. In Mujai and Anak Parang, livelihood activities have gradually come to a standstill, owing to continuous attacks by hostile Rakhine neighbours. Since then, they have been dependent solely on food handouts.

A report by the Frontier on September 12 confirmed the WFP has cut food aid to internally displaced persons to "support the transition to recovery in [parts of] Rakhine State … from March to December 2016”.

Activists have long warned Rakhine nationalists and government forces have employed a well devised strategy to starve out Rohingyas by preventing them access to livelihood and ultimately force them to leave the country. Locals in Rathedaung say the strategy is working well without attracting international attention.

December 28, 2016

A Tatmadaw Yay vessel entered Bangladesh territory and fired at Bangladeshi fishermen on Tuesday afternoon, according to our correspondent. The vessel fired after Bangladeshi fishermen started to flee when they were asked to surrender. The shootings did not manage to stop the fishermen who fled towards the direction of St. Martin’s Island.

The incident took place east of the Chera Dweep, which is approximately 8 km away from Myanmar territory.

Earlier, many Bangladeshi fishermen were abducted by Tatmadaw Yay and Hlun Htein forces since the beginning of the crackdown which has killed hundreds of Rohingya Muslims.

Rohingya Muslims are seen as immigrants from Bangladesh who have illegally ‘occupied’ parts of Arakan state.

Anti Muslim sentiment, which is strong in Myanmar often translates into anti Bangladesh feelings. Social media in the country is rife with hostility towards Bangladesh and many regularly call for an attack on the neighbouring country which is the only Muslim majority nation in the area.

Critics allege the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist nationalists have fuelled widespread anti Muslim and anti Bangladesh sentiments for their political leverage.

Hostile sentiments increased after an international court ruled in favour of that country in 2012 regarding a territorial dispute in the Bay of Bengal. The incident took place amid rising anti Muslim propaganda in the country.

Meanwhile, reports in the Bangladesh media say six of their citizens have been injured in a shooting by the Myanmar Navy.

Some sources say there has been a gradual build up of Tatmadaw personal over the last few days around the Sitar Pawrika area in Maungdaw South leading to tensions among the local populace. Naaf 1

October 4, 2016

Meanwhile in Meiktila, a city of central Myanmar, in the Mandalay region, Buddhist nationalists prevented Muslims from returning to their homes destroyed during the 2013 riots.

BBC Burmese Service reported a hostile mob refused to move out and many more were mobilised to prevent the Muslims from returning to their old homes. The Muslims have been turned out in March 2013 when Buddhist nationalists organised a pogrom killing scores from the minority community.

In recent months, the new government in a charm offensive led by Aung San Suu Kyi has tried to improve Myanmar’s image and is trying to show the world that steps are being taken to stop persecution of the beleaguered community. However, discrimination against Muslims continue, and there are fears that violence will continue.March riots 2013

Riots in Mandalay region, 2013

October 1, 2016

Traffickers are torturing the son of a beggar for ransom in Thailand.

Amir Uddin, 14, from Baiya para, Kyauktaw went to Yangon in mid August in the compny of traffickers, according to local sources. He was then taken to Thailand. After reaching Thailand, traffickers confined and tortured him. His tortured cries were then relayed to his father Abdul Jabbar by telephone.

Jabbar says he didn’t know his son had gone to Yangon or Thailand and was shocked when he received the calls from his son as he was being beaten up by traffickers. Jabaar paid the traffickers 11 million kyats, but they want more. The poor beggar has been forced to sell all his possessions but is yet unable to save his son from torture.

Torturing victims in custody in Thailand has long been a strategy employed by traffickers to force ransom money from families. Last year, an intentional uproar caused by the discovery of mass graves in Thailand resulted in a crackdown by regional governments but in Myanmar, traffickers backed by influential patrons have continued their criminal enterprise, though the volume has drastically reduced.mass grave

Load More