By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
Myanmar security forces have shelled villages and blocked civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance in western Rakhine state since early 2019, a rights groups said Monday.
“Security forces have also used vague and repressive laws to detain civilians in the area,” according to the Amnesty International report based on fresh evidence on ongoing military operations.
“These latest operations are yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights,” Tirana Hassan, director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International said.
“Shelling inhabited villages and withholding food supplies are unjustifiable under any circumstances,” Hassan added.
The Amnesty said it has “received reports that army divisions involved in atrocities against the Rohingya in August and September 2017 have been deployed to Rakhine State again in recent weeks.”
“Despite international condemnation of the Myanmar military’s atrocities, all evidence suggests that they are brazenly committing yet more serious abuses,” said Hassan.
According to the report, these violations came after a UN fact-finding mission called for the criminal investigation and prosecution of senior Myanmar officials for crimes under international law against the Rohingya population in Rakhine, and against ethnic minorities in Kachin and northern Shan states.
The report said that “an ethnic Rakhine armed group known as the Arakan Army carried out coordinated attacks on four police posts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 13 police officers on Jan. 4, 2019” and “Myanmar’s civilian government instructed the military to launch an operation to ‘crush’ the Arakan Army, which the government spokesperson referred as as a ‘terrorist organization’”.
The Arakan Army is an armed Buddhist group that wants more autonomy for the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic minority.
It has fought the military as part of an alliance of armed groups in northern Myanmar and, as it has moved its attention to Chin and Rakhine states in recent years, has clashed sporadically with security forces there, according to the Amnesty.
The Myanmar army “has since moved considerable assets and troops into the region”.
The report said that “more than 5,200 men, women and children had been displaced by the ongoing fighting by 28 January, according to the UN.”
“They are overwhelmingly from predominantly Buddhist ethnic minorities, including the Mro, Khami, Daingnet and Rakhine.”
The Amnesty said it has found that “they fled their villages after the security forces shelled nearby or placed restrictions on food.”
In a June 2017 report, Amnesty International documented in detail “indiscriminate shelling by the Myanmar military during its operations in Kachin and Shan States, which killed and injured civilians and displaced thousands”.
“These unlawful attacks are sowing fear in many villages,” said Hassan.
- Restrictions on humanitarian access
“The Myanmar authorities have also imposed further restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine State. On 10 January, the Rakhine State government barred all UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations, except the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and World Food Programme (WFP), from operating in five conflict-affected townships,” said the report, as well.
“Many organizations have had to stop their humanitarian assistance, undermining emergency response and relief efforts in one of Myanmar’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions,” it said.
More than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, according to Amnesty International.
Since then, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
The OIDA also reported that more than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police, and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down.
The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
- Arbitrary detention
The Myanmar security forces also “appear to be using abusive laws to detain and prosecute civilians for allegedly supporting the Arakan Army, raising concerns about arbitrary detention and potential ill-treatment,” the Amnesty noted.
In a June 2018 report, Amnesty International “documented torture and other inhuman treatment against Rohingya men and boys held in BGP posts in Rakhine.”
The Amnesty said local activists and media reports suggest that “arbitrary detentions and the use of vague and repressive laws have been commonplace during the latest military operation in Rakhine State.”
The group added, based on local reports, that “around 30 village administrators submitted resignation letters in January, out of concern they might be wrongly prosecuted for unlawful association”.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.