Wed, May 15, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Rakhine village struggles due to army lockdown

AFP and Reuters, YANGON, Myanmar

Rakhine villagers trapped by a Myanmar army lockdown yesterday said they were fast running out of water as the operation against suspected ethnic rebels — which killed six and saw mass detentions — entered a third week.

Thousands of troops have been deployed across northern Rakhine to root out Arakan Army insurgents in violence, which has displaced more than 30,000 people since December last year.

Myanmar’s armed forces are using heavy artillery against the AA, who are fighting for more autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, but civilians say they have been caught up in the operations.

It was also the scene of the military’s brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017, which forced about 740,000 people over the border into Bangladesh in violence branded as “genocide” by UN investigators.

On April 30, security forces raided the ethnic Rakhine village of Kyauk Tan in Rathedaung township, taking 275 men for interrogation at a school.

They admitted shooting dead six detainees and wounding eight more two days later, claiming the men tried to attack them.

Eight men have been arrested and taken to state capital Sittwe, military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said, adding that six had confessed to being AA members.

He said all the remaining detainees were released on Monday.

However, residents told reporters by phone that the village remained sealed off, and food and water supplies were running dangerously low.

“Both humans and animals are thirsty as we still cannot go outside the village,” village elder Tun Thein said.

“Some animals have died from starvation and thirst,” he said, adding that soldiers were still preventing residents from moving freely.

Another woman, asking not to be named, said the villagers were forced to boil “muddy water” to drink.

Zaw Min Tun said as far as he knew the only people still facing constraints were the released detainees in case they were needed for “further investigation.”

Access to the north of Rakhine state is heavily restricted, making independent verification difficult.

Meanwhile, a UN fact-finding mission yesterday said the world must cut off financial and other support for Myanmar’s armed forces, repeating a call for top generals to be prosecuted for abuses against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Myanmar has rejected most of the accusations and dismissed a report in September last year by the UN-appointed panel, which said military officers carried out the campaign against the Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and should stand trial.

Autralian human rights lawyer and panel member Christopher Sidoti said it had seen no evidence Myanmar was trying to resolve the crisis or ease the safe return of refugees.

Myanmar has barred the experts from visiting the country, but they visited the region, including refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, beginning early this month.

“Due to the gravity of the past and continuing violations, attention must be given to the political, economic and financial ties of the Myanmar military, to identify who and what should be targeted,” Sidoti said.

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