New Report Finds Serious Rights Abuses in Rakhine State

The vast majority of abuses were committed by the Burmese Army, according to the report by the All Arakan Students and Youth’s Congress.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Recent armed conflict in Rakhine State has impacted at least 33,000 civilians and resulted in rampant human rights abuses by various parties, according to a report released this week by the All Arakan Students and Youth’s Congress (AASYC).

“Armed conflict has caused human rights violations in Rakhine State. The governments of both the State and the Union have done nothing to bring justice to civilians impacted by this conflict. It’s like criminals are acting with complete impunity,” said AASYC secretary Ko Tin Oo told NMG.

The report, which was released on July 9, is based on data collected by the AASYC between December 2018 and May 2019.

According to the report, the vast majority of documented human rights abuses committed during this period were carried out by the Burma Army, or Tatmadaw, while other groups, including the Arakan Army (AA), the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, and an unknown armed group, were also found to have violated rights.

“The Tatmadaw declared a unilateral ceasefire in five regional military commands last December, but this did not include the Western Military Command [which covers Rakhine State]. We have monitored human rights violations in Rakhine State since then and have recorded 195 confirmed cases during this period,” said Tin Oo.

“We can say that the government and the Tatmadaw committed most of these violations. The AA committed two cases. We also found that unknown armed groups killed civilians. Other cases include landmine explosions and shells that landed in villages,” said Tin Oo.

The AASYC report categorizes human rights violations into nine groups: (1) illegal arrest and detention; (2) confiscation or destruction of property; (3) forced labor; (4) forced relocation; (5) torture or inflicting harm; (6) killing; (7) restrictions on travel; (8) disappearances; and (9) restrictions on freedom of speech.

The area with the highest number of abuses was Mrauk-U in Rakhine State. Other townships, including Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun, Minbya, Sittwe, Myaepon, and Ann in Rakhine State and Paletwa in Chin State, also recorded numerous abuses, according to the report. Several cases related to the conflict were also recorded in Pyi, Pathein and Yangon.

The single largest cause of abuses was landmine explosions and airstrikes, which have injured at least 76 people and claimed several lives. Another 12 civilians have died in Tatmadaw custody.

Meanwhile, residents of Kyauktaw reported on Wednesday that they heard gunfire and heavy artillery explosions near Aung Zin, about seven miles outside of Kyauktaw on the Kyauktaw-Paletwa Road.

“We heard gunfire near Aung Zin, opposite Shwe Pyi and Tharsi in Kyauktaw Township, at around 12:20pm today [10 July]. I don’t know if it was a clash or just some guns shooting,” said a Kyauktaw local who spoke to NMG on Wednesday.

In the past week, clashes between Burma Army and AA forces have also been reported near Kispanady Bridge, Kyauktaw Hill and Peinnae Chaung, a village in Kyauktaw Township, the source said.