More arrests in Myanmar's Rakhine amid calls for probe

4 more held over fatal attacks on police that prompted launch of operations that led to allegations of rights abuses

More arrests in Myanmar's Rakhine amid calls for probe

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Myanmar authorities are continuing to arrest suspects in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State amid calls from the United Nations and international community for a probe into allegations that soldiers killed and rape Rohingya civilians.

The Ministry of Information announced Monday via its website that troops arrested four more men on suspicion of their participation in violent armed attacks last month in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung townships, areas predominantly occupied by the Muslim ethnic group.

According to the Myanmar government, 74 people were being held on remand as of Saturday facing several charges under Counter-Terrorism Laws and the country's Penal Code.

A police official in Yangon who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to talk to media had told Anadolu Agency that the suspects “probably face the death penalty”.

The area has been under military lockdown since Oct. 9 when around 400 armed men attacked three police station outposts, where nine police officers were killed and dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were stolen.

The military's ongoing clearance operations have generated reports of widespread abuse.

In the past week, top diplomats and a UN official who visited the area called on the government for a credible and independent probe into the fatal attacks, along with allegations that Myanmar soldiers subsequently killed and raped Rohingya civilians.

On Monday, the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) claimed that new evidence had been documented of crimes committed by government troops against civilians during the military operations were.

BHRN interviewed Rohingya who said they “witnessed the Military shooting live ammunition into fleeing crowds -- resulting in believed casualties, arson committed by the military against Rohingya properties, arbitrary arrests and looting by security forces of Rohingya possessions, including food and aid”, it said in a statement.

“Arbitrary killings, the use of rape as a weapon in war and the destroying of homes are regular practices of the Burmese army,” said Kyaw Win, BHRN executive director.

Kyaw Win said such crimes have been well documented and reported by other ethnic minority rights groups in the country, including among ethnic areas along the border with Thailand and China.

“The lives and livelihood of the Rohingya population in Burma [Myanmar] are increasingly in danger and at this point the international community should consider pragmatic measures to ensure their safety and security in Burma,” he said.

BHRN also expressed concern over the Rakhine government’s plan to train and arm non-Muslim residents as “Regional Police” to defend against armed insurgents.

The group said it believes that the arming of civilian vigilante groups in northern Rakhine “can only lead to an escalation of violence, and create conditions for sectarian riots similar or worse than those happened in 2012”.

The BHRN joined the UN, foreign diplomats and international rights group in calling on the Myanmar government to ensure human rights for all citizens in Maungdaw and to investigate all reported violations.

On Friday, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Renata Lok-Dessallien told a press briefing in commercial capital Yangon that a probe independent of political pressure was needed.

“We are not there to investigate," she said of a UN-led 10-member delegation, which has been visiting Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

"The visit is just the first step towards broader access. For a clear picture of the situation in the area, we urge the government to launch credible and independent investigations into the attacks and consequences."

Many of the Rohingya living in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung were relocated there following 2012 violence between the local Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine -- one of the poorest regions in Myanmar.

The violence left around 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, some 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses razed -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Last Mod: 07 Kasım 2016, 18:49
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