Rights Groups Call For Pressure on Myanmar to Cooperate With UN Mission in Rakhine

Cooperation will demonstrate the government's willingness to identify perpetrators of abuses against civilian groups, they say.

Ethnic Rakhine refugees are shown in Myanmar in an undated photo.

An open letter sent on Thursday by 23 rights groups and other international organizations is calling on world governments to urge Myanmar’s cooperation with a forthcoming U.N. fact-finding mission sent to investigate abuses in Rakhine state and other conflict zones in the country.

Signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations, the letter says that reports of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, torture, and the destruction of homes by security forces in northern Myanmar’s Rakhine state must be openly and honestly addressed.

“We are deeply concerned that if the government of Myanmar fails to fully cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission, the situation in Rakhine State may further deteriorate,” says the letter addressed to the United States, United Kingdom, member states of the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Reports of abuses committed by security forces against civilian populations during recent operations in Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan states must also be investigated, the April 27 letter says.

“The Fact-Finding Mission is in the interests of the government of Myanmar as well as the people of the country because it would demonstrate the government’s willingness to uphold the rule of law, work collaboratively with the international community to help establish the facts, identify perpetrators, and deter future crimes by all parties to the conflict[s],” the letter says.

In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a resolution calling for the dispatch of an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights violations by security forces in Rohingya Muslim communities in the northern part of Rakhine.

'Less than helpful'

On April 11, a top-level Myanmar government official briefing foreign diplomats, U.N. agency personnel, and reporters called the U.N. resolution "less than helpful," saying that Myanmar has made progress in dealing with the situation in Rakhine.

He noted that the government is complying with most of the 30 recommendations made by a Rakhine advisory committee headed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan by opening restricted areas to news media, allowing increased humanitarian access, and agreeing to close down three internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the Rakhine towns of Kyaukphyu, Sittwe, and Ramree.

Meanwhile, non-Muslim ethnic Rakhine refugees from an IDP camp in Kyaukphyu will be relocated next month to a 65-house village with electricity and available water, sources told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

The refugees, displaced from their homes by communal violence in 2012, will be resettled by May 5, a township administrator, Nyi Nyi Lin, told RFA.

“Their houses will have electricity and water supplies, and are now ready to be moved into,” Lin said, adding, “We will also provide 400,000 kyat [U.S. $295 approx.] per household.”

“So this will not be like an IDP camp, but more like family homes,” he said.

The government of France meanwhile announced on April 24 that it will contribute $700,000 euros (U.S. $761,670 approx.) in 2017 to humanitarian response and livelihood recovery in Rakhine and Kachin states, calling the move an effort to “efficiently and sustainably address food insecurity and nutritional vulnerability” is the conflict-torn areas.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.