The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee has expressed deep concern over reports that an army battalion has been flown into the country's Rakhine state to help local authorities boost security in the region.
This development, which reportedly took place on Thursday, is a cause for major concern, reads a UN press release issued in Geneva yesterday.
She said the Myanmar government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine.
“I am particularly reminded of the allegations of serious human rights violations which followed security force operations in the aftermath of attacks against three border guard police facilities in Maungdaw and Rathedaung in October and further clashes in November [last year].
Myanmar officers yesterday said the government had deployed a fresh batch of troops in Rakhine after a recent spate of murders, reported AFP.
They said soldiers have been sent to a mountainous area where a band of militants is actively training.
“Many battalions with hundreds of soldiers from central Myanmar were deployed to the Mayu moutain range,” a military officer told AFP, requesting anonymity.
State media also reported that the government had imposed new curfews, to be set "in necessary areas" as the army beefs up its clearance operations".
“I have noted from the summary report of the investigation commission for Maungdaw in Rakhine state, publically released last Sunday, that many allegations of human rights violations are being investigated or have been recommended for further investigation,” said Yanghee Lee.
The Presidential Commission admitted it was not able to verify many of these alleged violations or crimes including torture, rape and arson, and asked that these be properly addressed by the relevant authorities, the human rights expert added.
“There have been increasing reports of incidents affecting the local population, including the killings of six Mro villagers on August 3,” she said, adding, “I share the concern of the Myanmar government and its people regarding the safety and security of those living in Rakhine state in the light of these incidents.”
The special rapporteur acknowledged the Rakhine state's responsibility to provide security and protect people from attacks by extremists, but said this responsibility had to cover all residents, and the authorities could not afford more security to some than the others.
She reminded that the use of force must always be in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality to ensure full respect for human life. “Any measures security forces take or any operations they undertake to secure the areas concerned must be carried out in line with international human rights norms and standards,” Lee stressed.
Special rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff.
Rakhine has been gripped by violence since October last year when militants attacked police posts, sparking a bloody military crackdown that the UN believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority Rohingya.
More than 70,000 Rohingya villagers fled across the border to Bangladesh, carrying with them stories of systematic rape, murder and arson at the hands of soldiers.
The major part of the military campaign ended several months ago, but fear continues to stalk the region amid sporadic bouts of violence.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and struggle to access basic services.