Bangkok: Some of the fiercest fighting in years has broken out between Myanmar’s army and ethnic rebel groups as evidence mounts of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in a separate conflict in western Rakhine state.
A peace deal the country’s State Counsellor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi made the cornerstone of her government after winning landmark elections 13 months ago is in tatters as Myanmar’s army faces a newly formed rebel Northern Alliance of more than 17,000 fighters in north-eastern Shan State.
Fighting has also escalated between the army and the Kachin Independence Army, one the country’s strongest rebel groups in Kachin State.
Ms Suu Kyi, whose fledgling administration has almost no control over the military under a junta-era constitution, has called an unprecedented informal meeting of foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) amid growing alarm over Rakhine, where Rohingya militants allegedly attacked a police border post in October.
The United Nations has described Myanmar’s handling of the Rakhine crisis as “short-sighted, counterproductive and even callous” and warned the fallout from the surge in violence is spilling over into the wider region.
In a new report released on Monday, Amnesty International accused Myanmar security forces of unlawful killings, multiple rapes, arbitrary arrests and the burning down of houses in a campaign of violence against Rohingyas that it said may amount to crimes against humanity.