Myanmar urged to ensure religious freedom for minorities

The Human Rights Watch has urged Myanmar to guarantee religious freedom for all minorities, amid growing tensions between different belief systems in the country, according to a report released on Monday.

IANS| Last Updated: May 08, 2017, 15:37 PM IST

Yangon: The Human Rights Watch has urged Myanmar to guarantee religious freedom for all minorities, amid growing tensions between different belief systems in the country, according to a report released on Monday.

In April, Myanmar authorities had closed down two Islamic religious schools in Yangon, erstwhile capital and the country`s most populated city, Efe news reported.

"Local officials` craven capitulation to mob demands to shutter two Muslim schools is the latest government failure to protect Burma`s religious minorities," said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.

The human rights non-profit called for immediate reopening of the schools, and asked the government to publicly express its position on ending restrictions against minority religions.

Wunna Shwe, Joint Secretary General of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council, told HRW that closures like this are not uncommon in Myanmar and also affect other minority religious groups, including the Christians.

Buddhism is the majority religion in Myanmar and is practised by 87.9 per cent of its total population, followed by Christianity (6.2 per cent) and Islam (4.3 per cent), according to the official census.

Between October 2016 and February this year, the army had conducted a security offensive in the western province of Rakhine, following an attack on three police posts, allegedly by insurgents from the Rohingya Muslim minority community.

The October 9 attack that killed nine police personnel, led to a nearly four-month-long campaign of Rohingya persecution by the army, claiming hundreds of lives from the community.

Around 75,000 Rohingyas had fled the country and taken refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

More than a million Rohingyas live in Rakhine, where they have suffered discrimination since the outbreak of sectarian violence in 2012 that left at least 160 people dead, and since then around 120,000 of them have been living severely restricted lives in 67 camps.

Myanmar do not recognise the Rohingyas as citizens and shun them as Bangladeshi immigrants.

"Myanmar`s leaders can`t sit back and wait for the next round of violence against a minority group; they need to take proactive steps to address religious tensions and disputes so that all can practise their religion peacefully and safely," Robertson added.