A United Nations representative, foreign diplomats, and parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries visited Myanmar’s volatile Maungdaw township on Wednesday to discuss the unstable situation there in the aftermath of deadly border guard attacks and subsequent violence last month.
Meanwhile, members of parliament from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday urged the Myanmar government to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of reported human rights abuses connected to the Maungdaw attacks in Rakhine state. They also called on the military to let aid workers and independent reporters enter affected areas.
Renata Lok-Dessallien, the U.N.’s resident and humanitarian coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme’s resident representative in Myanmar, and ambassadors from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, India, Egypt, Indonesia, China, and Turkey visited Kyikanpyin border guard police headquarters, one of the three stations that was attacked.
They also visited 10 villages in Maungdaw and talked with villagers before heading by military helicopter to nearby Rathedaung township, site of another border patrol outpost that was attacked, to meet villagers.
“As Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi is working on the issue by following international human rights standards and our country moves toward a democratic system, we will work on this problem according to democratic standards,” said Nyi Pu, Rakhine’s chief minister.
“I want the international community to coordinate with the Myanmar government with good will,” he said.
Myanmar government officials have blamed a Rohingya Muslim group that received training and funding from Islamists outside the country for the Oct. 9 attacks and subsequent violence which has killed more than 30 people and forced up to 15,000 people from Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine communities to flee their homes.
Security forces that later locked down the area to forcibly search Muslim villages for the attackers and stolen weapons have been accused of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, arson, and rape. They also cut off access to aid workers and journalists.
Myanmar’s six-month-old government under de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, however, has denied accusations of human rights abuses.
Demand for ‘credible investigation’
The ASEAN lawmakers said in a statement that they are concerned that a lack of government oversight of the security forces in the area means that systems are not in place to protect the rights of citizens.
“The reports coming out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state are alarming and demand a credible investigation,” said Charles Santiago, chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a member of Malaysia’s parliament. “At the same time, all authorities must take urgent action to prevent further violations and fulfill their responsibility to protect the rights of all civilians.”
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, has meanwhile taken heat from the international community and rights groups over reports of alleged human rights abuses.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on an official visit to Japan, did not speak publicly about the situation in Rakhine during a press conference on Wednesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but reportedly told him that she wants to resolve it in accordance with the rule of law, according to Reuters.
The Japanese leader pledged U.S. $7.4 billion to support the country’s peace and development efforts over the next five years, the report said.
Some 140,000 Rohingya Muslims were displaced after communal violence erupted four years ago between them and Rakhine Buddhists, leaving more than 200 dead and tens of thousands homeless. The Rohingya, who bore the brunt of the attacks, were later forced to live in refugee camps.
About 120,000 Rohingya currently remain in the camps, while thousands of others have fled persecution in the Buddhist-dominated country on rickety boats to other Southeast Asian countries in recent years.
The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and denies them basic rights, freedom of movement, and access to social services and education.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.