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More arrests made amid clashes in Myanmar's west

State media says more than 30 arrested amid fresh fighting in villages mostly inhabited by Rohingya

More arrests made amid clashes in Myanmar's west File photo

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar

More than 30 people have been arrested after the latest round of clashes in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State, state media claimed Tuesday.

The incidents are reported to have occurred in areas of the impoverished state's north where rights groups say mass arson attacks have taken place against Rohingya villages.

The government said that troops had arrested 14 people Monday for allegedly preparing to attack government troops during ongoing military clearance operations, along with 17 men who authorities believe had recently completed "terrorist" training.

There was no independent verification of the "clashes", "arson attacks", or "terrorist" activity as access to the affected area near the Bangladesh border has been under Myanmar military control since Oct. 9.

While state media has focused on on-going attacks on its soldiers, NGOs and pro-Rohingya groups have highlighted widespread abuses -- including rape and murder -- of the area's predominantly Rohingya population.

Since an armed group launched fatal attacks on police stations in the country's west last month, at least 86 people -- including soldiers and 69 alleged attackers (among them two women) -- have been killed in Rakhine.

Monday's arrests follow what the government has claimed were attacks at the weekend by assailants with machetes and wooden clubs on troops during the clearance operations.

State media has said that two soldiers and 28 suspected attackers died, and military helicopters opened fire.

UN experts and international human rights groups have been calling on the government to probe allegations of rights abuses along with the alleged attacks.

Over the weekend, Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that new satellite images indicate mass arson attacks against Rohingya villages, where at least 430 buildings were destroyed.

“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” said the group’s Asia director, Brad Adams.

According to the military, some 243 people -- arrested on suspicion of being involved in attacks on police and troops, including that on Oct. 9 -- have been handed over to police.

State media reported that 23 of them were later released after being cleared of alleged involvement in the attacks, while 29 others were given penalties “according to the law”.

No details were provided about the charges and sentences.

The Rohingya have been described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide.

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