| 22.11,17. 02:44 AM |
Myanmar's discrimination against Rohingya Muslims is 'apartheid': Amnesty International
Photo: A report from Amnesty International details widespread discrimination against the Rohingyas. (AP: Bernat Armangue, file)
Myanmar's policies that restrict ethnic Rohingyas from travelling, visiting a hospital or going to school amount to apartheid, Amnesty International says.
The organisation released a report in Bangkok titled Caged Without A Roof, which detailed widespread discrimination in place even before the violence that has driven 600,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
"The Myanmar authorities are keeping Rohingya women, men and children segregated and cowed in a dehumanising system of apartheid," said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International's senior director for research.
"This system appears designed to make Rohingyas' lives as hopeless and humiliating as possible."
Rohingyas wanting to travel to another township and sometimes just the next village must apply for permission, pay fees and risk shakedowns at checkpoints, where the paramilitary Border Guard Police (BGP) see them as "walking cash machines".
"While conducting research for the report, Amnesty International saw first-hand a border guard kicking a Rohingya man at a checkpoint," the report said.
"[Amnesty] documented at least one case of extrajudicial execution, when BGP officers shot dead a 23-year-old man travelling during curfew hours."
Rohingyas are forbidden access to the state's best hospital, in Sittwe, except in extremely acute cases, the report said.
And in the few health centres that do accept Rohingyas, Amnesty said they are kept in "Muslim wards" where they are often forced to pay bribes to call family members or purchase food from outside vendors.
The London-based human rights group called for an arms embargo, targeted sanctions and an effort to ensure international aid money does not go to discriminatory projects.
Australia is a major provider of aid in Rakhine State.
Nobel Prize-winner in denial
The two-year investigation paints a very different picture to that put forward by Myanmar's de facto leader and Nobel Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
When asked about the widespread allegations of the most appalling human rights abuses, Ms Suu Kyi maintained her stony-faced denial.
"We can't say whether it has happened or not. As a responsibility of the Government, we have to make sure that it won't happen," Ms Suu Kyi told reporters, at the end of a meeting of senior officials at an Asia-Europe Meeting in the capital Naypyitaw.
In September, when Ms Suu Kyi last publicly addressed the international community, there was also total rejection of systematic discrimination.
"All people living in Rakhine State have access to education and healthcare services without discrimination," she said in September.
But the Amnesty report said education has been restricted since 2012, with Rohingya children not allowed to attend previously mixed government schools in many parts of Rakhine State.
"Kids can't go to school with ethnic Rakhine children, which means essentially their futures are robbed of them because they can't study, build a better life for themselves," Amnesty researcher Laura Haigh told the ABC.
There were an estimated 1.1 million Rohingyas living in Rakhine State, where they are denied citizenship and widely considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite living for generations in Myanmar.
Two attacks by Rohingya militants in October 2016 and August 2017 sparked brutal "clearance operations" by the army, BGP and ethnic Rakhine vigilantes.
More than 600,000 Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh and the United Nations has described the situation as "textbook ethnic cleansing".
Pressure from EU, support from China
The Amnesty report comes as Myanmar's de facto leader faces pressure from European leaders over the crisis, while receiving support from a visiting Chinese official.
Government officials, including Ms Suu Kyi, met European leaders in Naypyidaw on Tuesday.
Some European officials had earlier visited the displacement camps on the Bangladesh border.
Ms Suu Kyi said she hoped to reach agreement with Bangladesh over how to repatriate the Rohingyas.
"We hope that this would result in an MOU signed quickly, which would enable us to start the safe and voluntarily return of all of those who have gone across the border," Ms Suu Kyi said.
China's Foreign Minister also attended the meeting in Naypyidaw, offering support to Myanmar and suggesting a three-stage plan that focused on a ceasefire, repatriation and then a long-term solution to tensions.