Sun, Apr 29, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Thousands flee fresh clashes in Myanmar: UN

AFP, YANGON, Myanmar

Thousands of people have fled renewed fighting between the Burmese army and ethnic insurgents in the country’s remote north, a UN official said.

More than 4,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar’s northernmost state of Kachin near the border with China over the past three weeks, Mark Cutts, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Friday.

The number does not include about 15,000 people who have fled since the beginning of the year, and more than 90,000 residing in internally displaced persons camps in Kachin and Shan states since a ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army broke down in 2011.

“We have received reports from local organizations saying that there are still many civilians who remain trapped in conflict-affected areas,” Cutts said. “Our biggest concern is for the safety of civilians — including pregnant women, the elderly, small children and people with disabilities. We must ensure that these people are protected.”

The office has been unable to verify reports that civilians have been killed in the fighting.

Human Rights Watch also on Friday called for Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), days before a UN Security Council delegation is due to arrive in the country.

Myanmar has come under intense pressure since the start of a military campaign in August last year that has driven about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh, where refugees have provided consistent testimony of murder and rape by security forces and local mobs.

The UN delegation is to speak to refugees in the Bangladeshi camps before they head to Myanmar early next week to visit conflict-scarred Rakhine State.

They are also to meet with Burmese State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been denounced in the West for her failure to speak up for the Rohingya, a stateless minority that has faced decades of persecution in the largely Buddhist nation.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told reporters in Yangon that the UN Security Council should issue a resolution to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or else no one will be held accountable.

“The lack of a UN Security Council resolution has left the Myanmar government convinced that it has literally gotten away with mass murder,” he said.

Roth also called for targeted sanctions on perpetrators and an arms embargo.

Myanmar has rejected nearly all allegations that its security forces committed atrocities in Rakhine.

Earlier this month, it dismissed an attempt at the ICC to open a probe into the crisis, saying the court has no jurisdiction.

It took months for Myanmar to agree to the delegation’s visit after the UN leveled accusations of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine.

The visiting delegation is led by Britain, Peru and Kuwait, whose ambassador to the UN, Mansour al-Otaibi, has said the trip is not about “naming and shaming” Myanmar, but rather to show the country that the “international community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it.”

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