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Arakan Union report: Myanmar continues genocidal crimes amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Published at 01:09 pm April 15th, 2020
Myanmar-Shan state-Myanmar army-Rebel
File photo: Myanmar soldiers walking along the Pyidaungsu highway road outside Kutkai in Shan State on August 25, 2019 AFP

Surge of violence in Northern Arakan prevails

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Myanmar remains focused on armed conflicts and genocidal acts and crimes in the country. 

A report titled “Arakan Rohingya Union Narrative Report to OIC Development on the ground in Arakan state,Myanmar,” submitted by Arakan Rohingya Union Director General Dr Wakar Uddin on April 14, covered the current situation the Rohingya community is in.

The first case of the coronavirus in the country was reported much earlier and the disease has risen dramatically over the past several days with reported deaths, the report said.

While part of the government has finally begun to mobilize some resources to address the spread of the disease in the country, the military is totally consumed with armed confrontation with various ethnic groups, grossly disregarding the serious threat of the Covid-19.

In Arakan, there is a report of Covid-19 in Sittwe Township. There are increasing safety concerns for the Rohingya in villages and IDP camps as well as non-Rohingya ethnic groups in Arakan. 

The rapidly changing pandemic situation in Burma is being reported by various Burmese media outlets; however, many details remain sketchy with under reporting of the number of cases due to the lack of an effective tracking system, according to sources.

Surge of violence in Northern Arakan

In recent months, the Myanmar military stepped up the fighting with the Arakan Army, killing a number of village residents in several townships in Arakan. 

On April 7, 2020, heavy armed clashes between Burmese military and Arakan Army broke out in the Paletwa Township, according to sources from the ground.

In addition to ground shelling with heavy artillery, the Myanmar government forces also launched aerial attacks where seven village residents were reportedly killed and eight were injured; however, the injuries were reportedly not life-threatening - with four persons receiving burn injuries and the others four receiving injuries from shrapnel and flying debris during aerial bombardment. 

The fighting has rendered over hundred villagers homeless. There is a severe shortage of food in the area villages due to the closure of the markets since early March. 

“The village residents are facing shortages of food and life sustaining supplies not just due to the armed clashes today, it is also due to the closure of markets since early March as fighting has been going on for quite some time in this area” a villager said. 

Most recently, on April 13, Myanmar military launched heavy artillery at the Rakhine village of Kyaukseik in Punnagyun township, killing eight villagers and injuring thirteen, sources from the ground reported. 

In the attack, four people were killed and 13 others were injured and admitted to Punnagyun hospital. 

ICJ case and directives from the president’s office 

On April 8,, The Office of the President of Burma issued two directives related to the ICJ ruling on January 23, 2020, on provisional measures ordering the Government of Burma to preserve the evidence of crimes and acts of genocide. 

Directive 1: Compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 

The directive was addressed to all ministries and all regions and states governments to ensure that its personnel, officers , staff—whether military or other security forces, or civil services—and local people, under its control or direction do not commit the acts mentioned in Articles II and III of the Genocide Convention. The details of the directive may be found here.

Directive 2: Preservation of evidence and property in areas of northern Rakhine state

The directive ordered all ministries and the Rakhine state government, their agencies, departments, offices, and personnel that they are prohibited from destroying, or removing or permitting the destruction, or removal of: 1) Any property, immovable or movable, in any area of northern Arakan/Rakhine State, that may provide evidence of events referred to the ICOE’s final report.

2) anything that may provide evidence of killing members of a group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group, deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group, or forcibly transferring children of a group to another group. The details of the directive may be found here.

The Burmese military has engaged in destruction of evidences of crimes it has committed prior to and after the ICJ court order on January 23, 2019. 

After nearly three months, the Office of the President issued the directives which are clearly too little too late, the report further mentioned. 

Numerous evidences that the military destroyed till now are far long gone. 

Military atrocities against the Rohingya, including extrajudicial killing, mass killing, rape, mutilation, and torture, particularly in 2017, are only some instruments of genocide. 

There are continuous violations by government authorities driven by its policies against Rohingya that are currently in place, paving the way to the Myanmar authorities and the armed forces to commit genocide, the report also mentioned.

Recommendations made to the OIC

▪ The OIC and the international community should demand the Government of Myanmar to swiftly implement concrete measures to safeguard all the communities in Arakan, including the Rohingya, from Covid-19 via coordination with the international agencies. 

▪ The OIC and the international community must demand the Government of Burma release all the Rohingya imprisoned in Arakan on grossly false charges. The heavily overcrowded prisons in Arakan are high-risk disease-prone areas which are potentially catastrophic. 

▪ The OIC in cooperation with the international community must warn the Government of Burma and the military (Tatmataw) not to exploit the Covid-19 global pandemic situation against Rohingya in Arakan in any form and deliberately put them in harm’s way. 

▪ The OIC in coordination with the international agencies must strongly urge the Government of Burma to allow the international relief groups to deliver necessary medical, sanitation, and food supplies to the IDP camps in Arakan. 

▪ OIC, in coordination with Government of The Gambia and the international community, should demand the Government of Burma to provide information on the destruction of evidence of crimes and acts of genocide in Northern Arakan already made by the Burmese military and Government authorities prior to or after January 23, 2020. 

▪ The OIC and the international community must insist the Government of Burma lifts the internet blackouts and stops the current violence in Northern Arakan. 

Arakan Rohingya Union, a global Rohingya umbrella organization representing 61 Rohingya organizations worldwide, was formed under the patronage of the OIC Secretary General through the 38th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers Resolution No.4/37-MM as a united Rohingya coordinated council to reclaim the rights of Rohingya people in their homeland. 

Arakan Rohingya Union is registered in the United States as a non-profit (501)(c)(3) organization and recognized by all the 57 member countries of the OIC as the official representative organization of the Rohingya people.

Bangladesh hosting 1.1m Rohingya

With the arrival of the about 740,000 Rohingyas, Bangladesh was faced with one of the gravest crises in its history. Despite its limited resources, Bangladesh gave the refugees shelter and security. The arrivals after August 25, 2017, are in addition to 80,000 Rohingyas who took shelter in 2016, and nearly 300,000 have been living in Bangladesh for decades.

Altogether, Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar district and most of them entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, amid a military crackdown on Rohingyas in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

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