Burmese officials, community leaders, and Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population. The tens of thousands of displaced have been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home.
Beginning in June 2012, Arakanese political parties, local monks’ associations, and Arakanese civic groups made public statements and issued numerous pamphlets that directly or indirectly urged the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Arakan State and the country. The statements and pamphlets typically deny the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, demonize the Rohingya, and call for their removal from the country. Most were issued following public meetings that national officials should have understood to be clear warning signs of imminent and serious violence.
Forced population transfers, forced deportation, and persecution are specific crimes against humanity set out by the Rome Statute and other international courts that are particularly relevant to the situation in Arakan State.
The expulsions of Rohingya Muslims and Kaman Muslims from their neighborhoods and villages in Arakan State in June and October 2012, and their subsequent treatment, amount to a Burmese government policy of deportations and forced transfer of populations that appear aimed at permanently removing Rohingya and other Muslims from their current residences to other parts of Arakan State or outside of Burma altogether, thus changing the state’s demographic nature. Widespread and systematic attacks by Arakanese, with the participation of state security forces in many instances, forcibly displaced over 125,000 Muslims from their homes. At least another 20,000 others are known to have fled the country during that time. Underlying these crimes was an evident goal of the majority Buddhist population to drive out Muslim populations.
During the June violence, the security forces began abusive sweeps and mass arrests of hundreds of Rohingya men and boys. The seeming randomness of these arrests, incommunicado detention, and reports of torture and ill-treatment in detention have combined to instill widespread fear in Muslim neighborhoods and villages.
As discussed above, the orchestrated violence in Arakan State, particularly in October, involved near simultaneous attacks by Arakanese against Rohingya villages and settlements. The violence, largely carried out by mobs armed with a variety of weapons, appeared organized and inspired by higher entities, including the RNDP and the sangha. State security forces stood by and watched or participated in the killing, and later disposed of the bodies in a manner that hindered rather than helped investigations. Perhaps most indicative of all, ethnic cleansing was reflected in the terror tactics of the Arakanese attackers.