Myanmar has deployed 500 soldiers to the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine state amid fears of another wave of crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.
Two military sources based in the northwestern state said the decision was taken after seven Buddhists were found dead in mountains near the town of Maungdaw last week.
One of the military sources said about 500 troops were sent to several towns, including Buthidaung and Maungdaw, near the border with Bangladesh on Thursday.
Residents claim the seven Buddhists were killed after they discovered a camp for Rohingya fighters.
The government blames the incident on “extremists,” accusing the fighters of killing informants in the Muslim community.
Rakhine State police chief Colonel Sein Lwin said, “We have to increase security operations because the security situation has worsened, some Muslims and Buddhists have been killed by the insurgents.”
This photo taken on July 13, 2017 shows a Muslim family in Maung Hnama village, Myanmar’s Rakhine state. (Photo by AFP)
The stepped-up measures raised fears of a fresh wave of violence against the Rohingya after last year’s crackdown that was launched in the wake of a deadly attack on the country’s border guards on October 9, 2016 which left nine policemen dead. The government blamed the Rohingya for the assault.
Nearly 75,000 people have fled from the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military launched the crackdown, according to a UN report.
There have been numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes and arson attacks against Muslims since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone.
The United Nations has warned that the ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya in Rakhine could be tantamount to “crimes against humanity.”
Myanmar’s government has denied entry to the members of a United Nations fact-finding mission tasked with investigating allegations of crimes by security forces against the Rohingya.
Rakhine operation ‘major concern’: UN expert
Meanwhile, a UN human rights expert voiced alarm Friday at the Thursday deployment of the army battalion to Rakhine state, warning that warned the development was “a cause for major concern.”
“The government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine State,” said UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a human rights group, also expressed concern on Friday about the increased number of soldiers in the troubled state.
“Aung San Suu Kyi should call on all parties, including the Myanmar army, to take steps to de-escalate conflict in northern Rakhine state, rather than exacerbate it,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of APHR’s board, referring to Myanmar’s state counsellor.
Myanmar’s government already denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population that lives there, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, but the Rohingya community track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.