11 July 2024

United Nations, United States – UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned on Thursday recent attacks by Myanmar’s military that reportedly killed scores of civilians in western Rakhine state.

The Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic minority armed group, attacked junta forces in Rakhine in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military coup in 2021.

Guterres “strongly condemns the recent attacks by the Myanmar military that have reportedly killed scores of civilians, including in Rakhine State,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The AA says it is fighting for more autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine population in the western state, which is also home to around 600,000 members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

This week the AA said junta troops had killed more than 70 civilians in a raid on Byain Phyu village, north of the state capital Sittwe.

The junta said the claim was “propaganda”.

Phone and internet services have been all but cut off across Rakhine state, making it difficult to verify reports of violence.

Guterres also called for an end to the “ongoing persecution” of the Rohingya minority who find themselves trapped between the fighting between the junta and the AA.

Rohingya activists have accused the AA of forcibly displacing tens of thousands of members of their community, and burning and looting their homes.

They have also accused the junta of forcibly recruiting thousands of Rohingya to fight against the AA, as the military loses ground.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Rakhine for neighbouring Bangladesh in 2017 during a crackdown by the military that is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case.

– Reports of ‘indiscriminate’ bombing –

Guterres also condemned attacks by the junta that reportedly killed civilians in northern Sagaing region, a hotspot for resistance to the military’s 2021 coup.

Earlier this week local media reported that an air strike on Ma Thaw village in Sagaing had killed around a dozen people gathered to celebrate a wedding.

The junta has not responded to request for comment on the incident.

“Indiscriminate aerial bombings” continued to be reported across the country, Guterres said, calling for those responsible to be held to account.

The junta has lost swathes of territory to established ethnic minority armed groups and newer pro-democracy “People’s Defence Forces” in recent months.

Rights groups accuse the junta of using the strikes to punish communities suspected of opposing its rule.

Around 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes by the conflict that erupted after the junta seized power in 2021.

By Agence France-Presse