28thMarch 2019 -- London, UK -- The Burma Human Rights Network calls upon the Burmese Military to immediately cease operations inside of civilian areas in Rakhine State, particularly the use of artillery and helicopters, in their efforts to combat the Arakan Army. While the conflict between the Arakan Army and the Burmese Military has been ongoing for years, it has escalated significantly this past March with civilians increasingly injured or killed as a result.
“In this conflict, the Burmese Military is proving again that they have no concern for human life or the safety of civilians. This is especially true of minorities in the country and the ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya living in Rakhine state are evidence of this inhumane disregard. The International Community must insist that Burma initiates a ceasefire with the Arakan Army to protect civilians from further harm,” Said BHRN’s Executive Director Kyaw Win.
Since December of 2018, at least 24 civilians have been killed in the fighting. Civilian areas have increasingly been bombarded by helicopters and artillery. Seven civilians died on March 22nd after they were hit by an artillery shell in Si Taung Gyi village in Buthidaung Township. Rohingya civilians in Rathedaung Township’s Kan Sit said Burmese soldiers put them at risk when they stayed in their village on March 10th and March 11th, when the Arakan Army attacked the soldiers. At the same time, fighting has intensified significantly in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun, Mrauk U and Kyauktaw townships, with documentation of injuries, destroyed property, and damage to historical buildings with religious and cultural significance to Rakhine Buddhists. Villagers in Mrauk U and Ponnagyun have said that artillery and helicopters were used in attacks on civilian areas, displacing whole villages who fled for their lives. In total, the conflict is believed to have displaced over 20,000 civilians so far.
Rohingya living in Rathedaung and Buthidaung have said they have seen newly placed landmines outside of their villages. The Arakan Army has recently used landmines against Burmese vehicles but the Burmese army has a long history of using landmines in civilian areas as well.
The Burmese Army must stop attacks on civilian areas and make greater efforts to evacuate civilians living in proximity to conflict zones. Burma must drastically increase its efforts to ensure aid is available to all areas in Rakhine State, including Rohingya villages which have been desperately in need of aid since 2017. Burma must initiate a ceasefire with the Arakan Army to ensure aid can reach these areas and begin steps towards an equitable peace process. The International Community has been unfortunately quiet on these issues and there is an urgent need for external pressure on the Burmese Government and Military to ensure the conflict can be resolved before it worsens.
BHRN is based in London, operates across Burma and works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Kyaw Win, Executive Director
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
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