Saturday, March 24, 2018 12:14:56 PM
The United Nations (UN) on Saturday expressed serious concern over the fresh military build-up in Rakhine state in Western Myanmar where security forces were accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
"This development, which reportedly took place yesterday, is a cause for major concern," said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, in a press release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The authorities are imposing new curfews and deploying more troops to Rakhine state, Myanmar government confirmed on Saturday.
It said an army battalion has flown into Rakhine state to help local authorities boost security in the region as violence rise there in recent months, according to state media.
Rakhine has been gripped by violence since October last year when ethnic Rohingya fighters attacked police posts, sparking a months long bloody military crackdown.
The army campaign sent more than 70,000 Rohingya villagers fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, carrying with them stories of systematic rape, murder and arson at the hands of soldiers.
"The Government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine state," Yanghee Lee added.
The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the State's responsibility to provide security and protect people from attacks by extremists, but said this responsibility had to cover all residents, and the authorities could not afford more security to some than others.
Lee recalled the allegations of serious human rights violations which followed security force operations in the aftermath of attacks against three border guard police facilities in Maungdaw and Rathedaung in October and further clashes in November.
"There have been increasing reports of incidents affecting the local population, including the killings of six Mro villagers on August 3," she said.
"I share the concern of the Myanmar Government and its people regarding the safety and security of those living in Rakhine state in the light of these incidents."
The expert stressed that the use of force must always be in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality to ensure full respect for human lives.
The UN the Special Rapporteur on extra- judicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, has endorsed Lee's call.
Myanmar State media said Saturday that "clearance operations are being heightened" in Rakhine's May Yu mountain range, an area where the government says Rohingya fighters remain active.
The army used the same language to describe counterinsurgency sweeps in October.
"Plans are under way to reinforce security forces and military forces by deployment of additional troops," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said, adding curfews would be imposed in "necessary areas".
The goal was to "prevent extremist terrorists from taking a stronghold in the May Yu mountain range", the state mouthpiece said.
The military build-up comes after a rise in violence in recent months with dozens of villagers killed and abducted by masked assassins.
The government blames the killings on the rebel Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which claimed the raids on police posts last October.
The group has denied killing civilians in statements issued through an unverified Twitter account.
Rohingya communities in the remote area also continue to be raided, with security forces firing "warning shots" during a face-off with a mob of villagers earlier this month.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and struggle to access basic services.
A government-appointed commission in the country has dismissed allegations of widespread abuses, while Myanmar is refusing to allow a UN fact-finding team to conduct its own probe.
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