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Myanmar: Growing human rights crisis in Rakhine state

May 24th, 2024  •  Author:   Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  •  3 minute read
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Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell

We are receiving frightening and disturbing reports from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar of the impacts of the conflict on civilian lives and property. Some of the most serious allegations concern incidents of killing of Rohingya civilians and the burning of their property.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days by the fighting in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection. Over one million Rohingya are already in Bangladesh, having fled past purges. The High Commissioner calls on Bangladesh and other States to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.

Testimonies, satellite images, and online videos and pictures indicate that Buthidaung town has been largely burned. We have received information indicating that the burning started on 17 May, two days after the military had retreated from the town and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control. Our Office is corroborating information received about who is responsible.

One survivor described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled the town. Another survivor said that he was among a group of displaced numbering in the tens of thousands, who were blocked by the Arakan Army, on the road west linking Buthidaung to Maungdaw town. Survivors recounted that the Arakan Army had abused them and extorted money from them as they made their way to Rohingya villages around 10 to 15 kilometres south of the town, where Rohingya already displaced by earlier attacks on villages had previously sought shelter. Rohingya in these areas have, for weeks, described sheltering with families they do not know, without enough food to feed their families.

In the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung, the UN Human Rights Office has documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both the Arakan Army and military in northern Rakhine State. As well as aerial strikes, including by unmanned aerial vehicles, we have received reports of shooting at unarmed fleeing villagers, beheadings, disappearances, burnings of homes. For years, the military has targeted the Rohingya and actively enforced draconian and discriminatory restrictions affecting all aspects of their lives.

We see clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence as the battle for neighbouring Maungdaw town has begun — where the military maintains outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives, including hundreds of displaced Rohingya who moved to town from villages seeking safety. In this appalling situation, civilians are once more victimized, killed, their properties destroyed and looted, their demands for safety and security ignored, and they are again forced to flee their homes in a recurring nightmare of suffering.

The High Commissioner calls for an immediate end to the violence, and for all civilians to be protected without any distinction based on identity. Prompt and unhindered humanitarian relief must be allowed to flow, and all parties must comply fully and unconditionally with international law – including measures already ordered by the International Court of Justice, for the protection of Rohingya.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Liz Throssell – + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected]
Ravina Shamdasani – + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]
Jeremy Laurence – +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected]


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