Rights group: Myanmar unrest is 'ethnic cleansing'

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BANGKOK — A leading international rights group today accused authorities in Myanmar, including Buddhist monks, of fomenting an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority that killed hundreds of people and forced 125,000 from their homes.

Human Rights Watch also described the bloody wave of violence and massacres in western Rakhine state last year as crimes against humanity, and slammed the government of President Thein Sein for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice months after mobs of Buddhists armed with machetes and homemade guns razed thousands of Muslim homes.

While state security forces sometimes intervened to protect fleeing Muslims, more often they fueled the unrest, the rights group said, either by standing by or directly participating in atrocities.

Win Myaing, a government spokesman for Rakhine state, strongly rejected the allegations against state security forces, saying the government had no prior knowledge of impending attacks and deployed forces to stop the unrest.

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