Myanmar army raid taking terrible toll on Muslim kids: UNICEF
The UN children’s agency UNICEF says Myanmar’s military crackdown on Muslim-majority Rakhine state is taking a “terrible toll” on children following earlier reports of rape and other atrocities.
Northern Rakhine has been under a military lockdown since an alleged attack on the country’s border guards on October 9 left nine police officers dead, with the government accusing Rohingyas of being behind the assault.
In a statement, UNICEF called for “full resumption of essential services and the urgent lifting of all restrictions of movement of health and other professionals so they can safely reach children and families.”
The Myanmar army has declared the area an “operation zone,” blocking aid and barring foreign journalists and observers from visiting the area. Residents and human rights monitors have reported extra-judicial killings, rape and arbitrary arrests.
On Tuesday, the World Food Program (WFP) announced the start of first food deliveries to about 6,500 residents. Tens of thousands of people have not received food and other basic needs since the army began its offensive.
The limited delivery of food came after diplomats and the UN’s top official in Myanmar visited the region last week and called for aid programs to be allowed to resume. They also demanded an independent investigation into alleged rights abuses.
Accounts of severe abuse by Myanmar troops – including sexual violence, summary executions and the torching of villages – have been widely reported on social media following the military raid in the Rakhine state.
Last month, dozens of Rohingya women told the Reuters news agency that government forces had committed acts of rape or sexual assault against them.
Rights groups say Myanmar troops have gone on a rampage, which has forced terrified civilians to flee their homes.
The Rakhine region, where Rohingya Muslims form the majority population, has been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012. The UN says Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
The government denies full citizenship to the members of community, and regards them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh irrespective of the fact that they have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Hundreds of the Muslims have been killed, and tens of thousands others forced to flee their homes as a result of attacks by Buddhist extremists.