Plan to arm non-Muslims recipe for disaster: Jurist
Myanmar’s plans to arm and train non-Muslim residents in the troubled north of Rakhine State is likely to “aggravate an already dire human rights situation”, the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights watchdog, has said. Soldiers have flooded the Maungdaw area along Myanmar’s frontier with Bangladesh in Rakhine in response to coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct 9 in which nine police officers were killed.
The government said a group of some 400 Rohingya Muslim militants attacked the posts. It has said five soldiers and at least 33 suspected insurgents have been killed in the military operation since then. Security forces have blocked access to aid workers and most journalists to the area. Rohingya Muslims have accused the army of summary executions, rapes and setting fire to homes of civilians. The government and the military deny that.
Rakhine State police chief Colonel Sein Lwin told Reuters this week his force had started recruiting new “regional police” from among the ethnic Rakhine and other non-Muslim ethnic minorities in the area. “Establishing an armed, untrained, unaccountable force drawn from only one community in the midst of serious ethnic tensions and violence is a recipe for disaster,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director, said in a statement on Friday.
Min Aung, a minister in the Rakhine State parliament and a member of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said this week the recruits would help protect residents from the militants behind the Oct 9 attacks. Deputy commander of Rakhine police, Col. Thit San, contacted by Reuters yesterday, rejected the criticism, saying there will be no problems with the force as it would be under police command. “We already did that training previously, that is normal police recruitment as five or six times before, there were no problems then,” said Thit San.
Only citizens would be eligible to sign up for the police training, officials said, ruling out the 1.1 million Rohingyas living in Rakhine State, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar as they are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Initially, 100 recruits aged between 18 and 35 would undergo an accelerated 16-week training program, beginning in the state capital, Sittwe, this month, police said, adding they would be given weapons and other equipment “like police”.
Ethnic Rakhine political leaders have urged the government to arm Buddhists against what they say is rising militancy among the Rohingya. The ICJ said such force would lack the training and oversight to perform policing functions in accordance with human rights and professional policing standards.
It said there seemed to be no “accountability mechanism” in place to deal with instances of misconduct and abuses, calling for establishment of a professional police force. — Reuters
US forces conceded yesterday that its air strikes “very likely” resulted in civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s volatile Kunduz province, pledging a full investigation into the incident which triggered angry protests. The strikes early Thursday killed at least 30 people, many of them children, after a Taliban assault left two American soldiers and three Afghan special forces soldiers dead in the Boz-eKandahari area near the provincial capital.
“The president of Afghanistan has sent a special delegation to Kunduz to investigate the incident. Any negligence by anyone will be punished,” presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri told reporters. US military spokesman Charles Cleveland said an initial probe showed the attack “very likely resulted in civilian casualties”. The carnage triggered impassioned protests in Kunduz city, with the victims’ relatives parading mutilated bodies of dead children piled into open trucks through the streets.
“Look around me-everyone is in deep pain,” Sultan Mohammad said, carrying the body of a victim for the mass funeral ceremony on Friday. “What was their crime? Why were they killed like this?” He joined a growing chorus of people calling to bring the perpetrators to justice. The carnage underscores worsening insecurity after the Taliban last month overran the city for the second time in a year, as NATObacked Afghan forces struggle to rein in the insurgents.
US-backed Afghan special operations forces were conducting an operation against the Taliban on the outskirts of Kunduz city when they came under insurgent fire, prompting calls for air support. “I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives, regardless of the circumstances. — AFP