A United Nations envoy to Myanmar called on the government on Thursday to launch an independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses in the northwestern township of Maungdaw that followed last month’s deadly border guard attacks and other violent clashes.
Security forces that swept the area in western Myanmar’s Arakan (Rakhine) state after the initial attacks on Oct. 9 have been accused of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, arson, and rape as they forcibly searched villages where Rohingya Muslims live. They also cut off access to aid workers and journalists.
“Because of the allegations of abuses during the security operations that many of you are aware of, we have also discussed and stressed the importance of an independent, credible investigation,” Renata Lok-Dessallien, the U.N.’s resident and humanitarian coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme’s resident representative in Myanmar, said during a press conference in Arakan’s (Rakhine( capital Akyab (Sittwe).
“We have urged that the government pull together an independent, credible investigation team quickly and send the team into the area to address these allegations,” she said.
Lok-Dessallien and several foreign ambassadors to Myanmar conducted a two-day visit to Maungdaw to survey the situation on the ground and talk to residents and security forces.
On Wednesday, they visited one of the three border guard stations that assailants had raided along with Rohingya villages in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships where the outpost attacks occurred.
They also met with members of the Arakan (Rakhine) state parliament to exchange views on the situation and discuss assistance for Muslim refugees, she said.
The mission repeated its condemnation of the Oct. 9 attacks and expressed its condolences for the loss of life, she said. Close to 40 soldiers and attackers have been killed in the raids and subsequent violence, and up to 15,000 people from Rohingya and Arakan (Rakhine) communities have been forced to flee their homes.
The members of the mission visited villages from which residents had fled three weeks ago and where some rapes allegedly had occurred, but did not speak to any victims, Lok-Dessallien said.
“Or mission was not [able] to look into these issues, and it would have been irresponsible of us to even try,” she said, adding that trauma specialists would have to be brought in to talk to those who have said they were raped by security forces.
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