World, Asia - Pacific

Myanmar urged to let UN join probe of Rakhine violence

Rights group says inquiry into rights abuse allegations a big test for preventing future violence against Rohingya, others

29.10.2016
Myanmar urged to let UN join probe of Rakhine violence Buddhist hardliners attend the rally in former capital Yangon on Sunday, calling the abolishing the former United Nations (UN) secretary general Kofi Annan-led commission aimed at finding the lasting solution for conflicts between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state, on September 11, 2016. ( Aung Naing Soe - Anadolu Agency )

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar

An international human rights group has called on Myanmar’s government to allow United Nations experts to participate in an investigation into allegations of soldiers killing, raping and torturing Rohingya Muslims in troubled western Rakhine State.

Aid delivery and access to information in the area have been tightly restricted as troops have poured into Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships near the Bangladesh border since Oct. 9, when armed individuals killed nine police officers and stole dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

The ongoing military operations in the area, which is predominantly occupied by the country's stateless Rohingya population, have generated reports of widespread abuses against civilians.

Following pressure from UN human rights experts and international rights groups, Myanmar’s government has launched an investigation into the death of a 60-year-old Rohingya man who was detained on suspicion of involvement in the attacks.

The regional parliament in Rakhine State has also established a commission of legislators to investigate the fatal Oct. 9 attacks.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the move in a statement Saturday, but said the parliamentary commission appointed by the state government is partisan and appears to lack the independence and technical skills needed to carry out such a sensitive investigation.

“Promptly establishing an unbiased and independent commission that has the mandate to investigate all alleged abuses is an essential first step,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director.

HRW urged Myanmar’s government to invite the UN to participate in a thorough and impartial investigation into the deadly attacks on police and subsequent allegations of summary killings, sexual violence, and other rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine.

“The Burmese [Myanmar] government should ensure a credible inquiry into the October 9 violence by inviting UN human rights experts to take part,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Rakhine State’s ethnic divide is perhaps Burma’s biggest fault line. The government’s handling of this inquiry is a big test for preventing future violence against the Rohingya and other populations.”

Since the Oct. 9 attacks, at least 43 people -- including nine police, four soldiers and 29 suspected attackers (among them the two women) -- have been killed, or have died, in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung.

With police and soldiers continuing to hunt those responsible for the initial raids, many members of both the Rohingya and Rakhine communities have fled their homes in fear.

On Thursday, a local media report said there were reports of dozens of Muslim women having been raped by soldiers in Maungdaw during area clearance operations.

Around 30 women are reported to have been raped by security forces in a single village Oct. 19, the Myanmar Times reported citing Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya rights organization.

Lewa said five girls aged between 16 and 18 were raped in another village Oct. 25 and two women at another location Oct. 20, according to the report.

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