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Yanghee Lee expresses alarm on escalating violence in Rakhine, Chin States, calls for protection of civilians

UN expert concerned over escalating conflict in Myanmar

GENEVA (BT) – A UN expert expressed her concerns over the escalating conflict in northern and central Rakhine and Chin States of Myanmar on Friday, calling for the protection of civilians in the region.

In a statement Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that since November 2018 civilians were killed and wounded in clashes between the Myanmar army — also known as Tatmadaw — and Arakan Army.

The Arakan Army was formed in 2009 with the stated intention of achieving “self-determination for the people of Arakan”, referring to the state’s ethnic Buddhist majority.

Lee said that the conflicts also led to the displacement of at least 5,000 people, without giving figures on civilian casualties.

“Both sides must take precautions and ensure the protection of civilians,” she said condemning the attack of Arakan Army on Jan. 4 on four Border Guard Police posts.

“It is unacceptable for the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army to conduct hostilities in a manner that impact civilians,” she added.

Lee said that the Myanmar army deployed “a large number of troops to the region” following the attack.

The UN expert said that heavy weapons and artillery, helicopters were used in civilian areas, which led to the injuries and death of civilians.

“What is happening in Rakhine reminds me of the tactics used by the Tatmadaw against ethnic populations for decades,” she said.

“All the people of Rakhine State, including the Rakhine, Mro, Daignet, Hindu and Rohingya, have suffered enough,” she added.

Stating that the violence against the people of Rakhine continues, Lee said she is “seriously concerned about the dangerous rhetoric being used” by the government of Myanmar.

Lee urged the government not to block humanitarian aid to the Rakhine region.

“I remind the Government and the Tatmadaw that blocking humanitarian access is a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” she added.  

– Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar’s western Rakhine State is home to Rohingya Muslim community, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, the OIDA report said, adding that 17,718 (±780) Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police. Over 115,000 Rohingya houses were also burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

In a report, the UN Refugee Agency said nearly 170,000 people fled Myanmar in 2012 alone.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

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