Asia - Pacific

Myanmar halts military operations in Rakhine state

Military operations end following growing concerns over the rights violations against Rohingya Muslims

16.02.2017
Myanmar halts military operations in Rakhine state File photo

By Kyaw Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar

The security operation in the western state of Rakhine have ended, the government said Thursday.

The crackdown, which began in early October, has been the subject of severe international criticism over abuses committed against the region’s Rohingya Muslims, specifically in the northern part of Rakhine State.

State-run newspapers published a statement by the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi that said the military operation had finished as the area had been stabilized.

“The clearance operations undertaken by the military have ceased, the curfew has been eased,” National Security Advisor Thaung Tun said in the statement. “And there remains only a police presence to maintain the peace.”

On Wednesday, Thaung Tun met international diplomats and UN agencies in Yangon.

The government said at least 106 people -- 17 police and soldiers, 13 Muslim men working closely with local authorities and 76 alleged “attackers” -- were killed and more than 600 people detained since a gang killed nine police officers in the Maugndaw area in early October.

However, advocacy groups claim that hundreds of Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted groups worldwide -- have been killed in the military operation. An estimated 66,000 Rohingya have crossed the border to Bangladesh since October, according to the UN, and there are 22,000 displaced within Myanmar.

A recent UN report found that rights violations against Rohingya civilians could amount to crimes against humanity. It found that of 204 Rohingya refugees interviewed at the Bangladeshi border, 96 reported that a family member had been killed.

Security forces have been accused of committing abuses such as mass gang-rape and killings, including children and babies, brutal beatings, the burning of villages and disappearances during the military operation.

The government has vowed to probe into the allegations and take legal action against any perpetrators if there is clear evidence of human rights abuses.

“There can be no excuse for excessive force, for abuses of fundamental human rights and basic criminality,” Thaung Tun said. “We have shown that we are ready to act when there is clear evidence of abuses.”

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