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For Immediate Release

PHR Documents Systematic Patterns of Anti-Muslim Violence in Burma

New Report Shows Government’s Failure to Protect Muslims From Widespread Attacks

Media Contact

Vesna Jaksic Lowe, MS

Media Relations Manager, New York
Tel: 917-679-0110

New York, NY - 08/20/2013

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today released a report documenting the recent wave of violence against Muslims throughout Burma, whose government has created a culture of impunity for the violators and has failed to protect the Muslim minority.

The report details a number of serious human rights violations that have taken place over the last two years, which have resulted in the displacement of nearly 250,000 people and the destruction of more than 10,000 homes, scores of mosques, and a dozen monasteries. It documents the government’s failure to address human rights violations, points to police complicity in some cases, and identifies patterns emerging from the violent episodes.

“The deadly wave of violence in Burma has spread beyond the Rohingya, devastating Muslim communities throughout the country,” said Bill Davis, one of the report authors and a PHR Burma researcher. “Pro-democracy leaders in Burma and beyond must unequivocally denounce this kind of rampant violence and discrimination. A successful transition to democracy can only occur if the human rights of all people are embraced, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.”

Today’s report comes at a time the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, is conducting an official visit in Burma. He is expected to present his preliminary observations tomorrow.

PHR’s report, “Patterns of Anti-Muslim Violence in Burma: A Call for Accountability and Prevention,” shows how retaliatory attacks often end up targeting entire communities, and documents multiple instances where police and/or the army attacked Rohingyas and other Muslims or watched as they were attacked, instead of protecting them. The report also provides recommendations to stop the violence, including calling on the government of Burma to investigate and prosecute members of the police who committed these violations, allow humanitarian organizations access to help those in need, and institute judicial and legal reforms needed to end pervasive discrimination against the Rohingya and other minorities.

“The Burmese government has not only failed to protect vulnerable groups, but has created a dangerous culture of impunity that fuels human rights violations,” said Dr. Holly Atkinson, one of the report authors and a PHR volunteer medical advisor. “These horrific attacks can only be stopped if there is a thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible, and appropriate steps are taken to protect vulnerable and marginalized groups.”

The findings in the report are based on field research conducted in March, April, and May, during which time PHR interviewed 71 people in 18 locations across Rakhine State, Mandalay Division, and in Rangoon city. PHR has conducted eight investigations in Burma and the surrounding region between 2004 and 2013, most recently documenting a massacre that took place in the central Burmese town of Meiktila in March.

*Please note that this press release has been updated to more accurately reflect information on the number of internally displaced persons in Burma.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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