April 22, 2013

Chronology of Events: May 2012-April 2013

May 28, 2012: Three Muslim men rape and murder Thida Htwe, a 28-year-old Arakanese Buddhist woman in Kyaw Ne Maw village, Ramri Township. Police arrest them and later report that one of the men committed suicide in police custody. The remaining two are brought to court, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

June 3: Hundreds of Arakanese surround a bus carrying Muslim travelers at a government checkpoint in Toungop, Arakan State. Ten Muslims are forced off the bus and beaten to death while nearby police and army soldiers look on but do not intervene to stop the violence.

June 7: The government appoints a 16-person committee to investigate the cause of the June 3 massacre of the 10 Muslims in Toungop, chaired by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Kyaw Zan Myint. Tasked with reporting to the president by June 30, the committee has yet to publish any findings.

June 8: Residents riot in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area of Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, burning Arakanese homes and killing an unknown number of Arakanese.

June 8-12: Violence spreads to Sittwe Township, where Arakanese and Rohingya clash in arson attacks and killings. State security forces fail to intervene to stop the violence or protect either side, and in some cases participate in the violence against Muslims. Security forces begin a crackdown on Muslims, displacing about 100,000 people from their homes, including 75,000 Muslims. They conduct forcible mass arrests of Rohingya men and boys throughout the state. Hundreds of Rohingya are detained incommunicado.

June 10: President Thein Sein calls a state of emergency in Arakan State, putting the armed forces in charge of restoring order and instituting a curfew in several townships throughout the state.

June-October: Local Arakanese political leaders and Buddhist monks urge the economic and social isolation of Muslims, and some make explicit calls for the “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims from the area.

July 6: The UN announces that the government has detained 10 Rohingya aid workers from UN and international humanitarian agencies. At this writing, five remain detained without being publicly charged.

July 12: President Thein Sein says the “only solution” for the situation in Arakan State is to expel “illegal” Rohingya to other countries or to camps overseen by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), implying camps in Bangladesh. UNHCR quickly rejects the proposal.

August 2: Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin accuses outsiders of “politicizing” the unrest, saying the government “strongly rejects the accusations made by some quarters that abusive and excessive uses of force were made by the authorities in dealing with the situation.”

August 17: Thein Sein establishes a 27-member commission “to reveal the truth behind the unrest” and “find solutions for communities with different religious beliefs to live together in harmony.” He states in a report to parliament: “Political parties, some monks, and some individuals are increasing the ethnic hatred.”

September 22-23: The government hosts a two-day workshop in Naypyidaw on the situation in Arakan State. Vice President Sai Mauk Kham attributes the situation in the state to a lack of economic development: “Only when the socio-economic life of both sides [is] improved can the two societies stay together.”

October 21-24: Violence erupts nearly simultaneously in nine townships throughout Arakan State with attacks against Rohingya and Kaman Muslims. Approximately 40,000 are displaced. State security forces again fail to intervene, and many

 participate in violence against Muslims. Among the dead are at least 70 Muslims massacred in Mrauk-U, including 28 children.

October 25: The president’s office states that “riots erupted ... unexpectedly,” and that only 12 people were killed. The office holds “persons and organizations” responsible for “conducting manipulation in the incidents ... behind the scene.”

November 16: Prior to the visit of US President Obama, Thein Sein states that “once emotions subside on all sides” his government is prepared to address resettlement of displaced populations, granting of citizenship, birth registration, work permits, and permits for movement across the country, among other issues.

November 19: US President Obama visits Rangoon and delivers a historic speech at Rangoon University, warning of “the danger of continued violence” in Arakan State, adding: “National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop the incitement and to stop violence.”

December 6: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies that security forces and local authorities had any role in the “communal violence” or in discrimination against the “so-called Rohingyas.”

November 2012-April 2013: Sporadic incidents of violence against Muslims in Arakan State continue, including sexual violence by security forces against Rohingya women. Tens of thousands are living precariously in IDP camps or isolated communities, without livelihoods and access to urgently needed humanitarian aid. Thousands of Rohingya flee by boat from Arakan State to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. UNHCR estimates in December that 13,000 Rohingya arrived by boat in Malaysia in 2012 and refers to the “sailing season” as “unprecedented.” Thai authorities announce 6,000 Rohingya, including women and children, arrived on Thai shores since October 2012. News reports indicate several hundred Rohingya have died at sea.