Burmese army committing fresh atrocities in Rakhine state, says Amnesty

Burma’s Rohingya Muslims and other minorities are facing fresh atrocities and human rights violations at the hands of the military, according to a new report by Amnesty International. 

The new evidence, gathered through dozens of interviews in Burma’s western Rakhine state since January, documents indiscriminate attacks, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearances carried out by the Burmese army. 

The crackdown appears to have escalated in response to coordinated attacks on police posts by the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic Rakhine armed group, on January 4. Amnesty has also accused the AA of abducting civilians and endangering them with its operations. 

The abuses are continuing despite global outrage at the brutal military operation in August 2017 that prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee and take shelter in destitute refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. 

United Nations investigators said that the army’s campaign of murder, mass rape and arson had been conducted with “genocidal intent.”

Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are destitute and overflowing Credit:
Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

“The new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorising civilians and committing widespread violations as a deliberate tactic,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia.

The new evidence shows that multiple communities have borne the brunt of the latest onslaught. Amnesty conducted 81 interviews, including 54 on the ground in Rakhine state with ethnic Rakhine, Mro, Rohingya and Khami villagers, belonging to the Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths. 

The investigation, which also included satellite imagery, recorded seven unlawful attacks that killed 14 civilians and injured at least 29 more. 

In one incident, a seven-year-old boy, reportedly severely injured by a military mortar, died after being denied immediate medical care by soldiers. 

In mid-March, another army mortar exploded in Ywar Haung Taw village, injuring four and destroying a house. “I heard an explosion. It was very loud and there was a big fireball that fell around us,” said the homeowner, Hla Shwe Maung. 

Amnesty reports that the deployment of units from the 22nd and 55th Light Infantry Divisions suggests the operation has been sanctioned from the highest levels. 

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The military has not issued a response. The AA has denied endangering civilians. 

Amnesty has called on the UN Security Council to urgently refer the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court and impose a comprehensive arms embargo. 

Laura Haigh, the group’s Myanmar researcher, said the UNSC had “completely abdicated in their responsibility” to do so. 

“If anything, there is even less momentum than there was before. What is happening now is the perfect example of why they do need to take action because clearly the inaction to date has allowed more abuses to be committed,” she said.  

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