World Bulletin / News Desk
A further six people have been arrested in military clearance operations in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State following raids on police outposts earlier this month in which nine officers died.
The military said in a statement Saturday that the arrests were made Friday around Nga Khu Ya village in Maungdaw -- one of two townships predominantly occupied by the country's stateless Rohingya Muslim population where police outposts were raided Oct. 9.
The statement said that a total of 19 people -- 13 arrested Wednesday and six on Friday -- have confessed that they were involved in the attack on a police station outpost in Nga Khu Ya.
Two of those held subsequently died in detention Wednesday, although they are understood to have been in poor health on arrest. A statement released that day had said that 11 suspects were taken into custody.
Since the Oct. 9 attacks, at least 43 people -- nine police officers, four soldiers and 29 suspected attackers (among them the two women) -- have been killed, or have died.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned in a statement Friday that as troops poured into the region and authorities blocked off the delivery of humanitarian aid to Maungdaw, aid agencies have not been able to conduct a needs assessment.
The statement quoted a World Food Programme (WFP) partnerships officer as saying they had requested access “from township level to Union level”.
“The official explanation [for being denied access] is that security operations are ongoing.”
WFP told HRW that while the government has recently permitted the resumption of food assistance to 37,000 people in Buthiduang Township, 50,000 people remain without food aid in Maungdaw.
According to HRW, the blocking of aid has worsened the humanitarian situation in the area where recent violence has displaced some 3,000 ethnic Rakhine people and as many as 15,000 Rohingya -- described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.
Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said the recent violence “has led the army to deny access to aid agencies that provide essential health care and food to people at grave risk”.
“The Rohingya and others have been especially vulnerable since the ethnic cleansing campaign in 2012, and many rely on humanitarian aid to survive,” he added.
With police and soldiers hunting for those responsible for the bloody attacks, members of both the Rohingya and Rakhine communities have fled their homes in fear.
Rohingya advocacy groups have expressed concerns over what they claim is a continued crackdown in the area, with global groups releasing a statement Sunday claiming security forces have been indiscriminately killing Rohingya and torching and plundering their homes and villages, under the pretext of looking for the attackers.
On Friday, Myanmar’s government said that the Oct. 9 raids were conducted by the Aqa Mul Mujahidin organization, which it described as being affiliated with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a shadowy extremist group that takes its name from the Rohingya.
Though most experts believe the RSO’s continued existence is a myth, the government has classified it as an extremist group and officials blame it for recent attacks on border areas.