Rights groups demand probe into new Myanmar abuses on Rohingya Muslims
International rights groups have called for an independent investigation into growing charges that Myanmar forces are killing, raping and torturing villagers in restive Rakhine region, home to persecuted Muslim Rohingya.
Accounts of severe abuse by Myanmar troops – including sexual violence, summary executions and the torching of villages – have been widely reported on social media but are difficult to confirm since the East Asian country’s military does not allow rights organizations and journalist to visit the remote region bordering Bangladesh, AFP reported Saturday.
This is while Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined calls on Friday for an impartial investigation into such allegations, which the United Nations has described as “alarming and unacceptable.”
“If Myanmar’s security forces are not involved in any human rights violations as the authorities claim, then they should have no trouble granting independent observers access,” said AI’s Southeast Asia and Pacific Director Rafendi Djamin as quoted in the report.
The recent escalation of violence deepens and complicates a conflict that has already posed a major challenge to a new civilian government in Myanmar led by the nation’s former rights advocate and now First State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who has disappointed rights groups by not voicing support for the Rohingya.
Northern Rakhine, the report adds, has been under a military lockdown since an attack on the country’s border guards three weeks ago left nine police officers dead.
The government has accused Rohingyas of waging the armed assault and an army search for the perpetrators has led to the killing of over 30 people and arrest of dozens more, according to official reports.
It claimed that the October 9 border raid was carried out by hundreds of Rohingya fighters linked to what it referred to as “Taliban-trained” militants.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Zaw Htay dismissed an article in the Myanmar Times that described reports of a “mass rape” in a Rohingya village on October 19.
“There was information that some attackers were kept in that village. So security was taken very seriously and (the search team) was very careful about being safe and would not think to rape up to 5 women,” he wrote in Facebook post on Friday.
Myanmar’s Rakhine region, where Rohingya Muslims form the majority population, has been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012.
Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands more have been forced to flee their homes and live in squalid camps in dire condition within Myanmar and other countries – including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
According to the UN, Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities cross the globe. The government denies full citizenship to Rohingya population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even as many trace their lineage in Myanmar back generations.