Nonprofits accuse Myanmar army of rights abuses in Rakhine

29 October 2016
Nonprofits accuse Myanmar army of rights abuses in Rakhine
Rakhine ethnic children, who fled from Maungdaw town's fighting area, eat their meal inside a temporary makeshift tent on the Danyawaddy's football grounds, in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 26 October 2016. Photo: Nyunt Win/EPA

A number of international rights groups have accused the Myanmar army of committing severe violations against the Rohingya ethnic minority in western Myanmar's Rakhine State, where they say extrajudicial killings, rapes, pillaging and burning of villages are rampant.
Following an attack by an unidentified group on three police checkpoints in Maungtaw district bordering on Bangladesh, the Myanmar army closed off the region and declared it under military operation.
"We receive repeated allegations of arbitrary arrests as well as extrajudicial killings within the context of security operations conducted by the authorities in search of the alleged attackers," said United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee in a statement.
Ms Lee also pointed out the lack of access to independent sources that could help in an appropriate evaluation of the situation.
However, human rights organizations in the region have cited credible sources that allege numerous rapes of Rohingya women by soldiers.
Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, said on October 19, alleged security forces raped around 30 women in just one village.
Other incidents of alleged mass rapes were repeated on October 20 and 25, according to an email Lewa sent to EFE.
A doctor working with Burma Human Rights Network confirmed the rape and beating of a three-month pregnant woman - after examining and interviewing the victim - allegedly by soldiers.
BHRN has documented several rapes since the outbreak of violence and denounces the violation of international commitments undertaken by the government to end sexual violence in areas of conflict.
According to NGOs, the number of displaced people in the region now exceeds 10,000.
Lewa also reported the burning of hundreds of houses and dozens of extrajudicial killings, especially during the first week of the military intervention in October, besides the current arbitrary arrests of community leaders.
"While we can't directly confirm the many accounts we're receiving, it's clear the Burma Army is targeting civilians with violence in their security sweeps against Rohingya communities," Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, told EFE.
The Myanmar army has a long history of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and arbitrary arrest of members of ethnic minorities in the countries, Robertson added.
Since the violence broke out, at least 40 people have died, including policemen, soldiers, attackers and locals, according to official figures.
Rakhine is home to more than a million Rohingya, a minority who has been living in Myanmar for centuries, but who are not recognized as citizens and shunned as Bangladeshi immigrants.
Around 120,000 of them live a severely restricted life in 67 camps in Rakhine since the outbreak of sectarian violence in 2012 that left at least 160 dead.
Rohingya are a sensitive issue in Myanmar politics, especially owing to radical Buddhist groups that pushed the earlier government to adopt discriminatory measures against the minority group, including a check on their movement in the country.
The current government, led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party, formed a commission in August, headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to come up with recommendations to resolve the sectarian conflict.
"Suu Kyi and her government need to act immediately to rein in the security forces, and ensure a fully independent and impartial investigation of these rights violations, with all those found responsible being held accountable in a court of law," Robertson said.
Courtesy of EPA