UN sounds alarm on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

UN sounds alarm on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
UN sounds alarm on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Soldiers from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) patrol on a vehicle, next to an area destroyed by Myanmar's airstrike in Myawaddy, the Thailand-Myanmar border town under the control of a coalition of rebel forces led by the Karen National Union, in Myanmar, April 15, 2024. — Reuters pic

GENEVA, April 19 — Intense fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine State poses a grave threat to civilians, the United Nations warned today, as it urged international pressure to prevent more “horrendous persecution” of ethnic Rohingya.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said clashes between the military and the Arakan Army, alongside tensions being fuelled between the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine communities, meant there was a serious risk of a repeat of previous atrocities.

“The alarm bells are ringing, and we must not allow there to be a repeat of the past,” Turk said in a statement.

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More than one million Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state to refugee camps in Bangladesh in 2017 after a military clampdown on the Muslim group in which many were killed.

Thousands still risk their lives each year trying to get away from Myanmar on flimsy boats trying to get to Malaysia or Indonesia.

“Countries with influence on the Myanmar military and armed groups involved must act now to protect all civilians in Rakhine state and prevent another episode of horrendous persecution of the Rohingya,” Turk said.

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Clashes have rocked Rakhine state again since the Arakan Army attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since the military’s 2021 coup.

The AA is one of several armed ethnic minority groups in Myanmar’s border regions.

Turk’s office said that since the informal ceasefire broke down, 15 of Rakhine’s 17 townships had been affected by fighting, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries, and taking the number of displaced to well over 300,000.

“Rakhine state has once again become a battleground involving multiple actors, and civilians are paying a heavy price, with Rohingya at particular risk,” said Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights.

“What is particularly disturbing is that whereas in 2017, the Rohingya were targeted by one group, they are now trapped between two armed factions who have a track record of killing them. We must not allow the Rohingya to be targeted again.”

Myanmar’s ruling junta came to power in the February 2021 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, ending a 10-year experiment with democracy and plunging the Southeast Asian nation into bloody turmoil.

The junta is struggling to crush resistance to its rule by long-established ethnic rebel groups and newer pro-democracy forces. — AFP

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