Thein Sein Receives Peace Prize Amid Ethnic Cleansing Allegations

Myanmar President Thein Sein received a peace prize on Monday despite reports that he participated in, or at least endorsed, ethnic cleansing in the country.

While Myanmar has been celebrated for his quick democratization, not everything is going well for its people. The Rohyngya have steadily attempted to escape from the country amid escalating violence aimed at them.

A new Human Rights Watch report on Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people was released this weekend. The HRW’s report was made on the sectarian violence that struck in Arakan state last year.

While more than 200 people were killed in the region, more than 125,000 were made homeless through mass arson, looting, and cold-blooded murder. The fighting erupted between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the stateless Muslim Rohingya.

The Human Rights Watch accused the Rakhine in the report of instigating the bloodshed. It also implicated state authorities for allowing the group to continue with no resistance. More violence against the ethnic Muslims erupted last month, threatening the country’s stability.

But despite the report from the HRW, the International Crisis Group presented Sein with their “In Pursuit of Peace” award. The ceremony was hosted by ICG President Louise Arbour, who also served as a UN high commissioner for human rights.

Arbour was also a lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. On its website, the ICG praised Sein, saying:

“Since taking office in March 2011, President U Thein Sein of Myanmar has pioneered a historic transformation of his country with bold reform initiatives. His leadership has seen decisive action towards improving Myanmar’s relations with the political opposition and liberalizing past repressive laws.”

But not everyone in the international community agreed with the ICG’s assessment of Sein. Along with the Human Rights Watch, hacktivist collective Anonymous andseveral others have called for support for the Rohingya. The HRW’s report instead blames some in Sein’s government and Bhuddist monks for carrying out the systematic campaign to cleans Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state.

As for Sein’s part in the matter, the Myanmar president stated in July 2012 that the “only solution” to the violence in Rakhine state would be to expel “illegal” Rohingya from the country.

Do you think Thein Sein deserves the peace prize for democracy in Myanmar, or should he instead be investigated for war crimes against the Rohingya?

[Image via Thai Government]

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