A new outbreak of violence has broken out in central Burma over the past few days leading to the deaths of at least 40 people and the displacement of another 10,000. The violence echoes ominous warning signs of genocide pointed out by United to End Genocide last year and mirrors the anti-Muslim sentiments and troubling government response seen in violence that has killed over 100 and displaced 100,000 Rohingya people in western Burma.
The latest violence has been marked by reports of widespread anti-Muslim propaganda and organized attacks including the burning of Muslim houses and mosques. While the Burmese army has been able to secure the town where the violence erupted, local groups reported a delayed response and new violence has been reported in other towns including in the outskirts of the capital.
The latest criticism of a delayed and insufficient response by the government adds to long existing criticism of a military dominated structure that continues to commit human rights abuses itself in other areas of Burma, particularly against the Kachin. Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a resolution on Burma citing “remaining human rights violations including arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of humanitarian law”.
Continuing abuses and failed responses to violence with potentially genocidal dimensions must be met with decisive action from the international community. To ensure adequate responses including accountability, an international Commission of Inquiry should be formed to investigate both past and current abuses across Burma. And, as United to End Genocide’s President Tom Andrews testified before Congress earlier this month, the U.S. government and others should be clear that continued abuses will be met with consequences and that rewards given up to this point truly are reversible.