Rohingya Solidarity Organization
Located mainly in Arakan State, Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority is subjected to "severe legal, economic, and social discrimination," in addition to the forced labor and other abuses commonly faced by the country's other ethnic minority groups, according to the U.S. State Department human rights report. Rohingyas lack citizenship, making them ineligible for public education beyond the primary level and for most civil service jobs. The government denies citizenship to Rohingyas on the ground that their ancestors did not live in Burma at the onset of British colonial rule in 1824, as required by Burma's restrictive citizenship law. It says the Rohingyas are Bengali migrants from neighboring Bangladesh who came to Arakan State to find work. Moreover, Rohingyas must get permission from township officials to leave their village areas. Authorities generally do not allow Rohingyas to travel to Rangoon, although some Rohingyas obtain permission by bribing officials. Rohingyas also face particularly harsh demands for forced labor. The Shan Human Rights Foundation and numerous Rohingya men say male Rohingyas must provide the army with up to 10 days of labor each month, the U.S. State Department report said. They are forced to carry food and ammunition under brutal conditions or, occasionally, to build Buddhist pagodas. Certain townships in Arakan State, including Thangwe, Gwa, and Taung-gut, are "Muslim-free zones" in which Muslims may not live, according to the U.S. State Department's October 2001 report on international religious freedom. In these areas, security forces have destroyed mosques and confiscated land from Muslims. In 1991 and again in 1997 and 1998, tens of thousands of Rohingyas from Arakan State fled to Bangladesh to escape abuses. Most have since returned, although 22,000 Rohingyas reportedly remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh. More than 100,000 other Rohingyas live outside the camps with no formal refugee papers. Muslims have been targeted in recent riots in both Arakan State and other areas. Offering evidence of what it called a "sharp increase in anti-Muslim violence" in Burma, the State Department religious freedom report said that government security and firefighting forces reportedly did little to contain attacks on Muslim mosques, businesses, and homes during February 2001 riots in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, that killed and wounded both Muslims and Buddhists. Outside Arakan State, rioting in the town of Taungoo in Pegu Division in southern Burma in 2001 targeted Muslim interests and killed some 10 Muslims and 2 Buddhists. The government responded to the violence by further restricting freedom of movement for Rohingyas and other Muslims, according to Human Rights Watch.
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