By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
ANKARA (AA) – Rohingya advocacy groups worldwide are calling for an international push to allow humanitarian aid to get through to western Rakhine State and stem what they refer to as the mass starvation of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community.
For almost one month, areas of the state have been under lockdown after armed individuals killed nine officers and stole dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Restrictions have subsequently been placed on aid delivery and access to information in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships as the army continues to search for those responsible.
Maungdaw and Buthidaung are predominantly occupied by the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim population — described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.
On Thursday, a statement from the groups headlined “International action needed as Rohingya face executions, rape, mass arrests and starvation” called on governments, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations to intervene.
“We appreciate that the NLD [National League for Democracy] led government has limited control over the military and security forces, but it cannot be said that that they are trying to do their best to end violations despite this,” it said, referring to Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party which has set up an international fact-finding body to try and resolve the area’s problems.
“Instead they are acting in a way similar to previous military regimes… They are not only failing to act to try to curtail violations of international law by security forces and the military, through its state media it is actively attempting to deny abuses are taking place and publishing false news.”
The statement claimed that if such abuses were happening under military rule, there would be international condemnation and talk of international investigations, sanctions and discussions at the United Nations Security Council.
Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government — which took office April 1 — is the country’s first non-military government in 54 years.
“Instead we are seeing silence or muted responses, and no action,” it underlined.
Maung Maung, a Rohingya man living in Rakhine capital Sittwe, has told Anadolu Agency that “bad things” had been happening in Maungdaw since the military operation began.
“We have had several calls from Maungdaw residents over the past few days. They said soldiers discriminate against them and forcibly took them for confession,” he said by phone on Tuesday.
“They said soldiers took innocent village men for interrogation… and Rohingya there told us they have not had enough food for a few days.”
On Monday, UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee said in a statement that even though a probe has been called for into the violence, the attacks continue.
“State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has rightly called for proper investigations to be conducted and for no one to be accused until solid evidence is obtained,” Lee sad.
“Instead, we receive repeated allegations of arbitrary arrests as well as extrajudicial killings occurring within the context of the security operations conducted by the authorities in search of the alleged attackers.”
Thursday’s statement claimed that there is no end in sight to the current abuses and that neither the military or the government were willing to admit to what is taking place and take action to prevent it.
“It therefore falls upon the international community to step in and protect the vulnerable Rohingya population who are facing multiple violations of international law,” it said.
“International law was designed specifically for situations like this. The international community must now step up to its responsibilities.”
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, was quoted as saying that the community is facing a major crisis, but without a “major crisis response” from the international community.
“The numbers already killed, raped and arrested could just be the beginning if action is not taken,” he said.
Every diplomatic, political and legal option must be pursued.”
The statement called on ASEAN to publicly and privately pressure the military and the government to stop all human rights violations and lift restrictions on humanitarian aid.
It also wants UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to lead UN efforts and to personally demand an end to all human rights violations and the lifting all humanitarian aid restrictions.
The statement was signed by Rohingya organizations from the UK, Denmark, Japan, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee.
[Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi hasnt done much for the humanrights abuses of Rohingya Muslims. Photogrpaher: Kyaw Kyaw/AA]