Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the Myanmar military of committing new war crimes in its fight against a rebel group.
According to the investigation by Amnesty, Myanmar’s armed forces were ordered by the government to crush a separatist rebel group in the country’s Rakhine State.
Rakhine is the site of previous rights abuses perpetrated by Myanmar’s army, most notably a program of extra-judicial killing, rape and forced eviction against the country’s Muslim minority Rohingya population.
As a result of the army program, the Rohingya began a mass exodus out of the area in 2016 and 2017 leading to a humanitarian crisis and a diplomatic spat with neighbouring Bangladesh where the Rohingya eventually settled.
As of writing, the diplomatic wrangling between Dhaka and Naypyidaw over the repatriation of the Rohingya has not been resolved and is compounded by the fact that the refugees have refused to return.
The new accusations on Wednesday will undoubtedly complicate an already muddled picture in Rakhine state. In addition to the army pogrom against the Rohingya, Rakhine is also host to a separatist rebel group led by native Buddhist Arakanese.
The group accuses the central government of ignoring their concerns and have stepped up attacks in recent months against government personnel and installations.
The army reprisal against the rebels is the subject of the Amnesty accusations.
According to Amnesty, “the new operations in Rakhine State show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorizing civilians and committing widespread violations as a deliberate tactic.”
“Less than two years since the world outrage over the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya population, the Myanmar military is again committing horrific abuses against ethnic groups in Rakhine State” said Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia at Amnesty International.
Government Under Pressure
The new accusations by Amnesty will undoubtedly put pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, already dealing with the continued fallout from its Rohingya policy.
The government only recently released two Reuters journalists who were jailed for uncovering previous army atrocities in Rakhine state.
International pressure have also led to sanctions on several high ranking Myanmar Generals and leaders of the armed forces.
But instead of dealing with issues within the armed forces and its heavy handedness and its perceived independence from government orders, it seems Suu Kyi’s government is happy to be complicit in covering up and ignoring these problems.
The government and the army have already restricted access for journalist to Rakhine state and will undoubtedly find ways to restrict access to human rights workers and NGOs if the problem persists.
With a stagnating economy and increasing international pressure, the latest Amnesty report could not have come at a worst time for Naypyidaw.