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Myanmar Accused of Persecuting Muslim Minorities

Myanmar has allegedly committed "crimes against humanity" with their policies on the Rohingya, including the notorious "two-child rule."

by Danny Gold
Feb 25 2014, 8:35pm

Photo by Fortify Rights International

An incriminating new report released Tuesday by a Southeast Asia-based human rights group contains official evidence implicating the government of Myanmar in crimes against humanity when targeting the Rohingya people.

The report by Fortify Rights, an NGO based in Thailand, accuses the country of persecuting the Muslim minority group by using the infamous "two-child policy" and other highly restrictive measures.

Policies of Persecution: Ending Abusive State Policies Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is based on 12 leaked government documents that are alleged to show complicity among state and central government officials in pursuing harsh discriminatory policies against the Rohingya.

“The impacts of these restrictions are severe and have been well-documented for decades, but the official orders have been kept out of the public until now,” said Matthew Smith, the executive director of Fortify Rights, in a statement released along with the 79-page report.

The Rohingya, who make up about 5 percent of Myanmar's population and live in the southwest corner of the country, have been called one of the most persecuted minorities in the world by the United Nations. A 1982 citizenship law stripped all but 40,000 of them of citizenship, denying them basic rights. Nearly all are effectively stateless, and straddle the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, mired in poverty or stranded in fetid displaced persons camps.

The report documents restrictions on movement, marriage, family, and health, and reveals strategies meant to enforce “population control.” The notorious "two-child policy," which seeks to limit the amount of children a Rohingya woman can have, is outlined in the government's Regional Order 1/2005. No specific number of children is given, but it requires Rohingya to "limit the number of children, in order to control the birth rate so that there is enough food and shelter." Rumors of high birth rates and a vastly expanding population have contributed to discriminatory policies aimed at the minority.

Anti-Muslim and Rohingya sentiment has been stoked by Buddhist nationalists, including monks, who accuse them of trying to stage an Islamic takeover of the predominantly Buddhist country. Since 2012, sporadic outbreaks of mob violence have killed nearly 200 people and displaced over 150,000, the overwhelming majority being Rohingya.

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Ye Htut, the deputy minister for information and spokesperson for the president, denied the veracity of the report, telling the Myanmar Times that the government “does not remark on baseless accusations from Bengali lobby groups.” Bengali is a derogatory term for Rohingya, meant to imply that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The report comes at a crucial time for the Rohingya, as a population census, the first in 30 years, is set to begin in March and there is fear it will enflame tensions. On February 12, the International Crisis Group issued an alert calling for the census to be delayed or changed. According the ICG, the last census taken in 1983 may have vastly underreported the Muslim population in the country, and there is fear that an accurate count now may give credence to Buddhist fears of a rapidly expanding population.

The Fortify Rights report also comes in the wake of an alleged massacre of Rohingya in mid-January in Du Chee Yar Tan village in which 40 men, women, and children were killed. The government of Myanmar launched an investigation last month but Tomas Quintana, a UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, called the inquiry unsatisfactory and reiterated calls for an impartial UN investigation.