x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Myanmar police 'failed to stop' wave of Buddhist-Muslim killings

Human Rights Watch urges Myanmar to conduct inquiry into wave of sectarian violence.

BANGKOK // Human Rights Watch yesterday urged Myanmar to investigate the failure of police to stop a recent wave of Buddhist-Muslim killing and arson attacks.

The New York-based rights watchdog released satellite images which it said showed more than 800 buildings that were completely destroyed in the central town of Meiktila.

"The government should investigate responsibility for the violence in Meiktila and the failure of the police to stop wanton killings and the burning of entire neighbourhoods," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director.

Last month's unrest, which spread to several other towns, left 43 people dead and more than 1,300 homes and other buildings destroyed, according to state media in the former army-ruled nation.

According to the United Nations, about 12,000 people have been displaced.

The worst-hit areas in Meiktila are believed to be neighbourhoods once home to "a significant number of Muslims", said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director.

The violence "was allowed to run for days on end", he said.

"There's been plenty of information that we found, and that others have reported, of essentially the police allowing it to go on and not intervening."

The situation appears to have calmed since president Thein Sein on Thursday vowed a tough response against those behind the violence, which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists".

In a radio address on Sunday, the former general appealed to members of the Buddhist clergy to "assist the government in promoting peace and stability".