By Kyaw Ye Lynn
The international community must put pressure on Myanmar’s powerful army chief to end the attacks on Rohingya civilians in western Rakhine state, a rights group said Thursday.
According to International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 18,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, where government troops and Rohingya militants engaged in fierce fighting for a seventh straight day in the Maungdaw area of Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state.
Security forces have allegedly committed rape, torture, arson, and other human rights violations against Rohingya civilians during the intensified area clearance operations following attacks on August 25.
“There is only one person in Burma who can order the soldiers to stop killing Rohingya civilians and stop burning down villages,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, referring to military chief Sen. Gen Min Aung Hlaing.
“The international community needs to personally name Min Aung Hlaing when making calls for restraint or an end to abuses,” he said.
“He needs to feel personal pressure and be named and shamed for his actions,” said Farmaner, adding that the fresh violence in north Rakhine was started by soldiers.
The government said at least 116 people, mostly militants, have been killed during fighting since the group which called itself Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out synchronized attacks on 30 police outposts and a military base in the area.
The government blamed ARSA for attacking non-Muslim civilians in the area in recent days, while rights groups and Rohingya activists accused the soldiers of targeting Rohingya villagers indiscriminately.
The region has seen simmering tension between its Buddhist and Muslim populations since communal violence broke out in 2012.
A security crackdown launched last October in Maungdaw, where Rohingya make up the majority, led to a UN report on human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity.
The UN documented mass gang-rapes, killings -- including babies and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances.
Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people have been slain during the crackdown.