Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Burma and Bangladesh in June and July 2012, and in Burma in October and November 2012, and continued to closely monitor the situation through the time of writing. The report is based on 104 interviews with individuals who witnessed or were otherwise directly affected by the violence in June and October 2012, and at least 10 group interviews with Rohingya, Kaman, and Arakanese, encompassing over 100 additional persons. The individual interviews overall comprised 54 Rohingya, 34 Arakanese, and 9 Kaman, as well as additional interviews with aid workers and others. Human Rights Watch visited more than 20 displacement sites, including informal camps for internally displaced Arakanese and Rohingya, and formally established internally displaced person camps for Rohingya and Kaman.
Interviews were conducted in Burmese, Arakanese, and Rohingya languages with English interpretation. In a few cases, we conducted interviews directly in English.
While the Burmese authorities are beginning to allow media and nongovernmental organizations to conduct research or monitor human rights issues inside violence-affected areas, access to many areas is still difficult and replete with security challenges. Moreover, researching human rights in Burma continues to be a difficult undertaking because of surveillance of the population by agents of the state and the risk of government retaliation against victims or others who provide information to researchers. Researching human rights abuses against Muslims brings an added risk of retaliation from local Buddhist communities in Arakan State opposed to such research.
Because of possible reprisals, the names of the victims, witnesses, and the precise dates and locations of interviews have been withheld. Pseudonyms are used for all interviewees named in this report, and interviews are cited with initials that do not reflect the actual initials of those interviewed. In some cases, other identifying information has been withheld in the interest of protecting confidentiality.
All those interviewed were informed of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature, and the ways in which the information would be used. All provided oral consent to be interviewed. None received compensation.
Between June and December 2012, Human Rights Watch also consulted and interviewed numerous UN and NGO staff members; national, regional, and local politicians; democracy activists, and local and international journalists who provided additional information about the situation in Arakan State. We also drew on a number of secondary sources including UN reports, academic studies and other publications, previous Human Rights Watch reporting, and other NGO reports.
In this report Human Rights Watch uses the terms “Burma” in reference to the country and “Arakan State” in reference to the state in question. The Burmese government refers to the country as “Myanmar” and the state as “Rakhine State,” reflecting name changes implemented by the military government that seized power in 1989. As such, Human Rights Watch refers to the Buddhist ethnic population as Arakanese while the Burmese government refers to them as Rakhine. All of these terms are used within Burma. The 2008 Constitution also changed the administrative areas called “Divisions” to “Regions,” so for example Pegu Division became Pegu Region after March 2011 when the constitution came into force.