Violence involving Myanmar's Rohingya on the rise again in northern Rakhine

(Photo: REUTERS / Soe Zeya Tun)Rohingya Muslims attend a wrestling festival at Kyaukpannu village in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state, June 6, 2014. Since international aid groups were forced out of the Rakhine area in February and March, members of the minority Muslim Rohingya community who relied on them say basic health care services have all but disappeared. Worst affected are those in Northern Rakhine State (NRS), home to most of Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya who are stalked by sickness and malnourishment and as yet untouched by reforms under a semi-civilian government which took power in 2011.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has expressed alarm at the violence and the incitement to further violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

The violence has taken place since attacks on security forces in three northern townships of the state on Aug. 25.

Zeid urged all sides to renounce the use of violence and called on State authorities to ensure they operate in line with their obligations under international human rights law.

"I utterly condemn the violent attacks on security personnel, which have led to the loss of many lives and the displacement of thousands of people," Zeid said in a statement on Aug. 29.

"Unfortunately, what we feared appears to be occurring."

In the latest round of violence, 18,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled in less than one week after the military launched a brutal crackdown in response to an attack by militants on border posts.

The response by the Myanmar military which serves an overwhelmingly Buddhist State, over the last year has been one of collective punishment, including mass killings and the destruction of entire villages.

"Decades of persistent and systematic human rights violations, including the very violent security responses to the attacks since October 2016, have almost certainly contributed to the nurturing of violent extremism, with everyone ultimately losing," said Zeid.

"This turn of events is deplorable. It was predicted and could have been prevented."

High Commissioner Zeid also expressed concern that more than 8,700 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh since the attacks, adding to the tens of thousands who have been arriving in Bangladesh since October 2016.

He appealed to the international community to help Bangladesh cope with the refugee influx.

The High Commissioner warned all sides against further fueling the violence.

He also called on the political leadership to condemn the inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to hatred that is proliferating, including on social media.

Zeid also expressed concern about claims by the State Counsellor's Office that international aid workers were complicit in or supporting the attacks.

"Such statements are irresponsible and only serve to increase fears and the potential for further violence," he said.

"I am extremely concerned that the unsupported allegations against international aid organizations place their staff in danger and may make it impossible for them to deliver essential aid."


Writing in an editorial page of London's Independent newspaper, Basit Mahmood criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for her stance on the Rohingyas.

"The adoption by the international community of Aung San Suu Kyi as the Oxford educated savior of Burma has not only failed to live up to expectations, but instead proved to be counterproductive."

"Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi has accused Rohingya fighters of burning down homes and using child soldiers during a recent surge in violence in troubled Rakhine state, allegations denied by the militants themselves," wrote Mahmood.

He said an administration that refuses "U.N. investigators and the world's media access to a state where it is believed genocide is taking place; a de facto leader who accuses aid workers of helping terrorists; and an office that accuses women of fabricating stories of sexual violence.

"All of this isn't happening under the watch of a mad dictatorship in an impoverished corner of the globe. These are the actions of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom."

High Commissioner Zeid said the perpetrators of the attacks on security personnel must be brought to justice, as must those who have been attacking the civilian population.

All this must occur with full respect for international human rights law. State authorities should issue clear instructions to security forces to refrain from using disproportionate force, minimize damage and injuries and respect the right to life.

Those who use excessive force must be held accountable. Zeid also called on the authorities to facilitate humanitarian access to the affected areas.

"The State has a duty to protect those within its territory – without discrimination," Zeid said.

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