Myanmar acts to address March attacks

Myanmar acts to address March attacks
Myanmar President Thein Sein (above) has ordered for the Buddhists involved in the anti-Muslim attacks to be jailed and abolished the border security police which has been blamed for many human rights abuses of minorities in western Rakhine state. Analysts see these developments as following up on the President's pledge to be even-handed in addressing anti-Muslim violence.

YANGON - Ahead of President Thein Sein's visit to Europe, Myanmar courts have jailed several Buddhists who were involved in attacks on Muslims in March, and Mr Thein Sein has abolished the Na Sa Ka, or border security police, blamed for many human rights abuses of minorities in western Rakhine state.

Analysts such as Yangon-based Mr Richard Horsey said the moves may blunt some of the criticisms levelled at the reformist President by overseas human rights groups, which have been lobbying the British government to pressure him on human rights during his visit to London this week.

Mr Thein Sein left for London and Paris on Sunday on a four-day trip, the first time he is visiting Britain and France.

Analysts also saw the developments as following up on the President's pledges to be even-handed in addressing anti-Muslim violence that has rocked parts of the country and dented its international image.

Mr Horsey said the jailing of the Buddhists late last week was a positive step. Anti-Muslim violence in Meikhtila in March left 40 people dead, most of them local Muslims. More than 2,000 homes were destroyed and well over 12,000 Muslims had to flee to guarded government shelters.

Jail sentences were first meted out to Muslims, which appeared to indicate bias on the part of the authorities and the courts.

"Most of the victims were Muslims, and the majority of those arrested were Buddhists, yet until now only Muslims have been jailed," Mr Horsey noted.

"The jailing of Buddhist perpetrators of these crimes is crucial in ensuring there is justice, and in ending any sense of impunity that may exist among violent extremists," he added.

Last Friday, a presidential notification abolished the Na Sa Ka with immediate effect. The Na Sa Ka, drawn from the army, police, Customs and immigration departments, is responsible for security and immigration control in Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh.

It is notorious for corruption and rights abuses of immigrants and minorities like the Rohingya Muslims.

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