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UNION OF MYANMAR: Official response to Rakhine crisis ‘unconscionable’

13 Sep 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: UNION OF MYANMAR
Topic: Indigenous people Minority group

The statement by Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s office, which claims that the government is defending all the people in Rakhine state “in the best possible way”, is unconscionable, Amnesty International said today.

“This is a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe. In her first comments on the crisis, instead of promising concrete action to protect the people in Rakhine state, Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be downplaying the horrific reports coming out of the area,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director.

“With tens of thousands of Rohingya pouring across the border, and thousands of others displaced in the state, the evidence that the Myanmar military has launched a vicious campaign of retaliatory violence against the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people is overwhelming. The government must allow immediate and unfettered access to aid organizations, which have been blocked from helping those who are stranded in the northern part of the state.”

Following attacks by a Rohingya armed group on 25 August, and the subsequent campaign of violence perpetrated by the military against the Rohngya community in Rakhine state, about 146,000 Rohingya people, mostly women and children, have crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh, leading to a major humanitarian crisis.

Background

The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign, Amnesty International said today.

  “Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response.

The government must immediately change course and allow humanitarian organizations full and unfettered access to all parts of the state.
According to humanitarian workers, restrictions on their activities and access began in early August but deteriorated significantly since the 25 August attacks.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee from their homes since the violence began. According to latest UN estimates 90,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees who have fled into Bangladesh have spoken of witnessing horrific abuses by the Myanmar security forces, including killings of people trying to flee and burning of whole villages.

In late 2016, the Myanmar army launched a vicious campaign in response to an attack by Rohingya militants. At the time, Amnesty International documented violations by the army including rapes, killings, torture and burning of villages, which may have amounted to crimes against humanity.

“The Myanmar authorities are obliged under international law to treat all those living in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya, without discrimination. Instead they have chosen to treat a whole population as an enemy which may be attacked, killed, deprived of homes and uprooted indiscriminately.”

The government has further exacerbated the situation by accusing international humanitarian workers of supporting the Rohingya armed group, after INGO-branded food items were found in an alleged militant camp in northern Rakhine State.

6 September 2017
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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