Pressure on govt over Rakhine abuse reports

By AFP

YANGON — Allegations that Myanmar soldiers are killing, raping and torturing villagers in Rakhine State must be independently investigated, rights groups have said.

Northern Rakhine State has been under a military lockdown since an Oct. 9 attack on border guards left nine policeman dead.

The government has blamed the raids on Rohingya militants and a search for the culprits has seen more than 30 people killed and dozens arrested, according to official reports.

Stories of grave abuse by security officers — including sexual violence, summary executions and the torching of villages — have spiralled on social media but are difficult to verify, with the army barring rights groups and journalists from the area.

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On Friday Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined calls for an impartial investigation into the allegations, which the UN has called “alarming and unacceptable”.

“If Myanmar’s security forces are not involved in any human rights violations as the authorities claim, then they should have no trouble granting independent observers access,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty’s Southeast Asia and Pacific director.

Writing on Facebook Friday, government spokesman Zaw Htay dismissed an article in the Myanmar Times that described reports of a “mass rape” in a Rohingya village on October 19.

“There was information that some attackers were kept in that village. So security was taken very seriously and (the search team) was very careful about being safe and would not think to rape up to five women,” he wrote.

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