Asian MPs urge probe of reported abuses, envoys visit Myanmar’s Rakhine
Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged Myanmar on Wednesday to probe reports of human rights abuses in Rakhine state as top foreign diplomats set off for the troubled area.
Troops have poured into northern Rakhine since militants believed to be Rohingya Muslims attacked border posts on Oct. 9, killing nine police. The government says five soldiers and at least 33 alleged attackers have been killed in the operation.
The area has been cut off to aid workers and observers for over three weeks. Residents and human rights advocates have said abuses by government forces included summary executions, rape and setting fire to homes.[nL4N1CR4B2]
The government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any abuses have been committed.
“The reports coming out of Myanmar’s Rakhine State are alarming and demand a credible investigation,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament and chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) group.
“We remain deeply concerned … that as a result of the lack of government oversight of security forces, effective systems are not in place to protect civilians or support their chance of seeing justice served,” he said in a statement.
APHR also called on the military to allow aid workers and journalists access to the affected areas in order to provide humanitarian assistance and document developments.
The Rohingya, most of whom live in apartheid-like conditions, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Some 125,000 remain displaced and face severe travel restrictions in squalid camps since fighting erupted in Rakhine between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.
CALLS FOR ACCESS
The military operation has sharpened the tension between Suu Kyi’s six-month-old civilian administration and the army, which ruled the country for decades and retains key powers, including control of ministries responsible for security.
Suu Kyi, on a visit to Japan, did not comment at a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who pledged aid worth 800 billion yen ($7.73 billion) to Myanmar over five years to support its peace-building and development efforts.
Later, Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters Suu Kyi had told Abe she wanted to resolve the issue in Rakhine in accordance with the rule of law, but the two leaders had not discussed the situation on the ground.
The diplomats who left the Rakhine capital Sittwe for the northern area under military lockdown included ambassadors from the United States, United Nations, European Union, China, Britain, India, Turkey and Indonesia.
Only state-run media were allowed to cover the trip, which some diplomats privately said was unlikely to tackle concerns about alleged abuse.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said aid agencies should be granted access to the 10,000 to 15,000 people thought to have been displaced by the latest violence in Rakhine State.
“Essential, life-saving humanitarian activities have been suspended for more than three weeks now, and they need to be resumed as soon as possible,” said UNOCHA official Pierre Peron.
Rohingya sources from the area have echoed the concerns about independent access to witnesses, but said the diplomats were likely to visit villages where residents have reported rapes, destruction of homes and killings of civilians.
(Additoinal reporting by Win Myint; Editing by Antoni Slodkowski and Tom Heneghan)
Source by: http://www.reuters.com/