Lee calls for investigation into allegations
Possible war crimes and crimes against humanity are taking place in Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar, said a United Nations expert calling for an investigation into the allegations.
“While the world is occupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine State, targeting the civilian population,” said Yanghee Lee, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, on Wednesday.
“Calls for a ceasefire, including by the Arakan Army, have gone unheeded. Instead, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) is inflicting immense suffering on the ethnic communities in Rakhine and Chin,” she said.
“The Tatmadaw is systematically violating the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights. Its conduct against the civilian population of Rakhine and Chin States may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. All parties to the conflict, including the Arakan Army, must also protect civilians.”
The expert noted that accountability was critical to ending the conflict and said, “Having faced no accountability, the Tatmadaw continues to operate with impunity. For decades, its tactics have intentionally maximised civilian suffering; we all know what they did to the Rohingya in 2017. They are now targeting all civilians in the conflict area, with people from Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Chin communities being killed in recent months.”
“Their alleged crimes must be investigated in accordance with international standards, with perpetrators being held accountable,” she said.
An armed conflict has raged in Rakhine and Chin States since December 2018 between the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army. But in recent weeks the Tatmadaw has ramped up attacks against civilians. More than 157,000 people have been displaced, and hundreds, including women and children, killed and wounded since the conflict started.
The Arakan Army has also carried out hostilities in a manner that has had negative impacts on civilians, including kidnapping local officials and parliamentarians. Most recently, on 12 April, the Arakan Army is reported to have abducted an elected member of a Paletwa Township committee. However, it has declared a unilateral ceasefire, which has the effect of increasing civilian protection. The focus of all authorities, including security forces, should be on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
The special rapporteur said recent Tatmadaw air and artillery strikes in civilian areas in Rakhine and neighbouring Chin State have killed and injured scores of adults and children, and the Tatmadaw has prevented some of the injured from accessing urgent medical care. Men suspected of links to the Arakan Army have been detained for days and tortured. Schools, houses and a Buddhist temple have been burned or destroyed, even an entire village of up to 700 homes.