Calls for Rakhine ac­cess

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - AN­DREW D KAS­PAR a.kas­par@mm­times.com

Hu­man rights groups are con­tin­u­ing to de­mand ac­cess to north­ern Rakhine State where thou­sands have been dis­placed in the wake of a deadly as­sault ear­lier this month.

AS some schools in north­ern Rakhine State pre­pare to re­open to­day, hu­man rights groups con­tinue to call for greater ac­cess to the re­gion where thou­sands have been dis­placed in the wake of a deadly as­sault on bor­der guard posts ear­lier this month.

The Euro­pean Union’s Direc­torate Gen­eral for Euro­pean Civil Pro­tec­tion and Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid Oper­a­tions (ECHO) es­ti­mated that 13,000 peo­ple had been dis­placed as of Oc­to­ber 21, while the UN’s World Food Pro­gramme has said it can­not de­liver ra­tions to tens of thou­sands in north­ern Rakhine State who rely on the pro­vi­sions.

“Re­cent vi­o­lence in north­ern Rakhine State has led the army to deny ac­cess to aid agen­cies that pro­vide es­sen­tial healthcare and food to peo­ple at grave risk,” Brad Adams, Asia direc­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said in a state­ment on Oc­to­ber 21. “The Ro­hingya and oth­ers have been es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble” in the af­ter­math of 2012 vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims in the state, “and many rely on hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to sur­vive”, Mr Adams added.

Self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims make up the ma­jor­ity in north­ern Rakhine State. The largely state­less group have been sub­ject to re­stric­tions on move­ment and other ba­sic rights since 2012 un­rest.

The north­ern part of Rakhine State has been heav­ily mil­i­tarised since the pre-dawn Oc­to­ber 9 at­tacks, which killed nine Bor­der Guard Po­lice of­fi­cers, as well as eight of the as­sailants.

Ac­cord­ing to The Global New Light of Myan­mar, some civil­ian pop­u­la­tions have be­gun to re­turn home, with an Oc­to­ber 22 re­port say­ing about 300 peo­ple had been “given the all clear” to go back to their vil­lages in Maung­daw town­ship. The state-run news­pa­per added that the Rakhine re­turnees had been among more than 400 peo­ple shel­ter­ing at the Aungmyay Bodhi monastery in Maung­daw town.

ECHO put the num­ber of dis­placed Ro­hingya at 10,000, com­pared with 3000 eth­nic Rakhine. The for­mer were “con­fined in a few vil­lages of Maung­daw town­ship, with ur­gent need of pro­tec­tion, food, shel­ter, and san­i­ta­tion”, it said, while the lat­ter were spread across tem­ples, monas­ter­ies and schools in the towns of Maung­daw and Buthi­daung, as well as in a tented foot­ball field in the state cap­i­tal Sit­twe.

The govern­ment has de­clared north­ern Rakhine State an “op­er­a­tional zone” where a com­bined force of po­lice and Tat­madaw sol­diers have been con­duct­ing lethal “clear­ance oper­a­tions”. Ac­cess has been se­verely cur­tailed, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify much of the in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided by of­fi­cials or state me­dia. Se­cu­rity per­son­nel have stressed the need to re­cover dozens of weapons that were stolen from the bor­der guard posts on Oc­to­ber 9.

A group of Ro­hingya ad­vo­cacy groups has ac­cused se­cu­rity forces of “war crimes”, in­clud­ing the burn­ing of Mus­lim vil­lages and ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings as they combed the re­gion in search of the at­tack­ers.

At least 30 sus­pected mil­i­tants have been killed in the manhunt that has fol­lowed the bor­der raids. The lat­est of­fi­cial state me­dia ac­count­ing of those rounded up for al­leged in­volve­ment in­cluded six sus­pects ar­rested on Oc­to­ber 19, though a com­pre­hen­sive state-wide tally has not been dis­closed.

“The Burmese govern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to search for and ar­rest those who at­tacked the bor­der posts,” Mr Adams of HRW said last week. “But it is re­quired to do so in a man­ner that re­spects hu­man rights, en­sures that the area’s peo­ple get the aid they need, and al­lows jour­nal­ists and rights mon­i­tors into the area.”

About 400 schools in Maung­daw and Buthi­daung town­ships have been shut­tered since Oc­to­ber 10. Of­fi­cials last week said those in ar­eas deemed suf­fi­ciently sta­bilised would re­open this week, though it was not clear how many schools those con­di­tions would ap­ply to.

‘Re­cent vi­o­lence in north­ern Rakhine State has led the army to deny ac­cess to aid agen­cies.’

Brad Adams Hu­man Rights Watch

Photo: Kaung Htet

A mem­ber of the Bor­der Guard Po­lice Force in­spects an aban­doned BGP out­post along the bor­der with Bangladesh in Rakhine State on Oc­to­ber 15.

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