Myanmar Government to Allow Independent Journalists Into Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township

myanmar-burned-village-maungdaw-township-rakhine-dec12-2016.jpg An aerial view shows a burned-out village in Maungdaw township, western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Dec. 12, 2016.
Myanmar State Counselor's Office/AFP

The Myanmar government said Friday that it will allow a group of independent journalists into Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township, which is still under a security lockdown following deadly attacks on border guard posts in October and subsequent violent clashes last month.

Thirteen independent journalists will be escorted on a three-day trip to the area on Dec. 19-21 under full security, the notice said. It did not mention which reporters or news organization would be included.

More visits by journalists will come later, allowing news outlets to cover news in the region, it said

“The Ministry of Information has been arranging the visit,” said Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President’s Office. “The military, police, and state government are collaborating on this trip.”

“Because the journalists are going to an area where the attacks occurred, they will have full security,” he said.

Security forces that moved into Maungdaw in October to search for “militants” who carried out the attacks have closed the area off to reporters from nongovernment media organizations and international aid agencies.

The United Nations, Western countries, and international human rights groups have called on the Myanmar government to open Maungdaw to independent journalists so they can investigate reports of killings, rape, torture, and arson by army soldiers who conducted security sweeps of Muslim Rohingya villages.

The Myanmar army and government have rejected allegations of misconduct and abuse by security forces in Maungdaw, and have blamed Rohingya ‘militants” for setting structures ablaze.

According to official government counts, nearly 90 people have been killed and close to 600 arrested.

More than 27,000 Rohingya have fled their villages and gone to neighboring Bangladesh.

EU lawmakers condemn crisis

The European Parliament is the latest to weigh in on the crisis in Rakhine state. On Thursday, it issued a statement expressing lawmakers’ concern about reports of the Myanmar army’s violent clashes with the Rohingya.

Members of the European Parliament “are extremely concerned about reports of violent clashes with the Rohingya people in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar and deplore the loss of life, livelihood, and shelter, as well as the reported ‘disproportionate use of force’ by the Myanmar armed forces,” the statement said.

“They urge the military and security forces to put an immediate stop to the killing, harassment, and rape of the Rohingya people and to stop burning down their homes, while pointing out the duty of the Myanmar authorities to investigate the attacks,” it said.

On Monday, Myanmar government leaders will hold a meeting with foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Naypyidaw to discuss the situation in Rakhine state.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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