World Bulletin / News Desk
The Amnesty International report -- released Monday -- underlined that the military’s response to attacks on police stations in Maungdaw, a district predominantly inhabited by Rohingya near the border with Bangladesh, “went far beyond what is necessary and proportional”.
“Instead of investigating and arresting specific suspects, the army carried out operations which amount to collective punishment, targeting individuals clearly not involved in such attacks, whole families and whole villages,” it stated.
The report comes as Myanmar hosts a meeting with foreign ministers from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) over a situation in northern Rakhine in which anything from 76 to 400 Rohingya have died.
On Monday, ASEAN member Malaysia -- extremely vocal in its criticism of the crackdown -- acknowledged that the Myanmar government has since taken steps to safeguard human rights, but progress has been "rather slow".
"There continue to be reports from many sources alleging arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings [including of children], rape by soldiers, burning of Rohingya villages as well as destruction of homes and places of worship," said a statement from Malaysia's foreign ministry.
"It is troubling that these alleged violations occurred in the context of security operations conducted by government authorities."
The Amnesty report -- titled Rohingya: Persecuted in Myanmar, Neglected in Bangladesh -- is based on 35 interviews with victims of, and eyewitnesses to, abuses since Oct. 9 attacks on police outposts as well as testimony from a further 20 people, including human rights monitors, humanitarian workers, journalists and Rohingya leaders.
“These operations appear to target Rohingya collectively on the basis of their ethnicity and religion,” it said.
“At the very least, the concerns substantiated in this report that crimes against humanity may have been committed in Rakhine State warrant a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation.”
Monday’s ministerial meeting was called after several members of the regional bloc -- including predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia -- raised concerns about the crackdown.
Since Oct. 9 -- when an armed group killed nine border police officers -- the predominantly Rohingya Muslim district of Maungdaw has been closed to aid agencies and independent journalists.
On Friday, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed “deep” disappointment that the UN Human Rights Office’s requests for access to northern Rakhine after Oct. 9 had not received approval.
“The repeated dismissal of the claims of serious human rights violations as fabrications, coupled with the failure to allow our independent monitors access to the worst affected areas in northern Rakhine, is highly insulting to the victims and an abdication of the Government’s obligations under international human rights law,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
In response, Myanmar's permanent mission to the UN and other international organizations issued a press release Sunday saying that "finding a sustainable resolution for peace, harmony and development in Rakhine State has been one of the highest priorities" since Myanmar's first civilian government took office in late March.
Myanmar has said that at least 93 people -- 17 police and soldiers and 76 alleged "attackers" (including six who reportedly died during interrogation) -- were killed and some 575 suspects have been detained for alleged involvement in the Oct. 9 attacks and the subsequent military crackdown.
Rohingya advocacy groups, however, claim around 400 Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted groups worldwide -- were killed in the military operations, women were raped and Rohingya villages torched.
Prior to Monday's meeting, Malaysia's foreign ministry underlined that "time and again" it had expressed its grave concerns about the continued violence in northern Rakhine.
"Widespread panic, fear and insecurity had resulted in more people fleeing the country and head [sic] for neighboring countries, including Malaysia," it said.
"We believe that in order to dispel these allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ or in some cases ‘genocide’, it is incumbent upon the government to be transparent and to provide timely and accurate information as well as provide access to the affected areas."
Myanmar has said that no statement or press conference will be issued after the "informal" meeting.