Myanmar: Rakhine ethnic rebels kill nine police

By Kyaw Ye LynnYANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Myanmar authority on Sunday has confirmed that nine police were killed during a late night attack by ethnic rebel group in Myanmar’s trouble western Rakhine state.Rakhine ethnic rebel group, Arakan Army (AA), had raided a police station in Yoetayote village near state capital Sittwe at midnight on Saturday, the latest of the group’s several attacks on security forces and government officials in the area.Maung Maung Soe, deputy chief of police force in Rakhine state confirmed that all nine police, who were at the police station, were killed during the attack.“About a hundred AA members surrounded the police station, and demanded the police to surrender last night (Saturday night). Fighting broke out as they refused to do so,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone on Sunday.“Nine police were killed by gunshot,” he said.Armed clashes have intensified in Rakhine state, especially in northern parts, since March last year when the AA claiming represents Rakhine state’s majority Buddhist ethnic returned to base forces in the area.Nearly 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, fled their homes since military launched an offensive in Rakhine state after AA killed at least 13 security forces during a coordinated attacked four boarder guard police outpost stations near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh in January.Alongside its alliance rebel groups, AA previously fought the government troops in northern Kachin state and northeastern Shan state.

UN envoy: Little sign of hope for Rohingya refugees

            By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district live in &quot;extremely challenging conditions&quot; with little sign of hope, a UN envoy said Thursday.</p>  <p>Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Myanmar, was briefing the Security Council on her recent visits to Myanmar, Bangladesh and other destinations in the region.</p>  <p>According to a statement released by the UN on her briefing, Burgener said 18 months have elapsed since violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and others to flee their homes, including to neighboring Bangladesh.</p>  <p>“While Bangladesh and host communities have been very generous, we cannot expect this to continue indefinitely,” she said.</p>  <p>She said the recently launched United Nations Joint Response Plan for 2019, aimed at supporting both refugees and host communities, needs &quot;urgent&quot; funding.</p>  <p>Burgener said a number of priority steps also needed to be taken, including ending the violence in Myanmar, facilitating unfettered access to affected people, addressing the root causes of tensions and enabling inclusive and sustainable development.</p>  <p>She said military and civilian tensions persist in Myanmar ahead of general elections in 2020.</p>  <p>Expressing concern that heavy fighting with the Arakan Army will further impact efforts towards the dignified, voluntary return of refugees, she also appealed to both sides to ensure the protection of civilians and uphold their obligations under international law.</p>  <p>The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled &quot;Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.&quot;</p>  <p>Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.</p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Amnesty: Myanmar army ops target Rakhine state

             By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p>    <p>LONDON (AA) - Myanmar security forces have shelled villages and blocked civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance in western Rakhine state since early 2019, a rights groups said Monday.</p>    <p>“Security forces have also used vague and repressive laws to detain civilians in the area,” according to the Amnesty International report based on fresh evidence on ongoing military operations.</p>    <p>“These latest operations are yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights,” Tirana Hassan, director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International said.</p>    <p>“Shelling inhabited villages and withholding food supplies are unjustifiable under any circumstances,” Hassan added.</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has “received reports that army divisions involved in atrocities against the Rohingya in August and September 2017 have been deployed to Rakhine State again in recent weeks.”</p>    <p>“Despite international condemnation of the Myanmar military’s atrocities, all evidence suggests that they are brazenly committing yet more serious abuses,” said Hassan.</p>    <p>According to the report, these violations came after a UN fact-finding mission called for the criminal investigation and prosecution of senior Myanmar officials for crimes under international law against the Rohingya population in Rakhine, and against ethnic minorities in Kachin and northern Shan states.</p>    <p>The report said that “an ethnic Rakhine armed group known as the Arakan Army carried out coordinated attacks on four police posts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 13 police officers on Jan. 4, 2019” and “Myanmar’s civilian government instructed the military to launch an operation to ‘crush’ the Arakan Army, which the government spokesperson referred as as a ‘terrorist organization’”.</p>    <p>The Arakan Army is an armed Buddhist group that wants more autonomy for the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic minority.</p>    <p>It has fought the military as part of an alliance of armed groups in northern Myanmar and, as it has moved its attention to Chin and Rakhine states in recent years, has clashed sporadically with security forces there, according to the Amnesty.</p>    <p>The Myanmar army “has since moved considerable assets and troops into the region”.</p>      <p>The report said that “more than 5,200 men, women and children had been displaced by the ongoing fighting by 28 January, according to the UN.”</p>    <p>“They are overwhelmingly from predominantly Buddhist ethnic minorities, including the Mro, Khami, Daingnet and Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has found that “they fled their villages after the security forces shelled nearby or placed restrictions on food.”</p>    <p>In a June 2017 report, Amnesty International documented in detail “indiscriminate shelling by the Myanmar military during its operations in Kachin and Shan States, which killed and injured civilians and displaced thousands”.</p>    <p>“These unlawful attacks are sowing fear in many villages,” said Hassan.</p>    <p> </p>  <p>- Restrictions on humanitarian access</p>    <p>“The Myanmar authorities have also imposed further restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine State. On 10 January, the Rakhine State government barred all UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations, except the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and World Food Programme (WFP), from operating in five conflict-affected townships,” said the report, as well.</p>    <p>“Many organizations have had to stop their humanitarian assistance, undermining emergency response and relief efforts in one of Myanmar’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions,” it said.

More than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, according to Amnesty International.

Since then, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

The OIDA also reported that more than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police, and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

– Arbitrary detention

<p>The Myanmar security forces also “appear to be using abusive laws to detain and prosecute civilians for allegedly supporting the Arakan Army, raising concerns about arbitrary detention and potential ill-treatment,” the Amnesty noted. </p>  <p>In a June 2018 report, Amnesty International “documented torture and other inhuman treatment against Rohingya men and boys held in BGP posts in Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said local activists and media reports suggest that “arbitrary detentions and the use of vague and repressive laws have been commonplace during the latest military operation in Rakhine State.”</p>    <p>The group added, based on local reports, that “around 30 village administrators submitted resignation letters in January, out of concern they might be wrongly prosecuted for unlawful association”.

Facebook boots 4 Myanmar armed groups from platform

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Facebook took the rare action of banning four Myanmar armed groups Tuesday amid ongoing violence in the country. </p>  <p>The social media titan said it banned the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Kachin Independence Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army because &quot;we don’t want our services to be used to spread hate, incite violence or fuel tension on the ground.&quot;</p>  <p>In addition, the company said any praise, support or representation of the groups on the platform will be removed &quot;as soon as we become aware of it.</p>  <p>&quot;Our approach to this problem, like the problem itself, is multifaceted, but our purpose is clear: to reduce the likelihood that Facebook will be used to facilitate offline harm,&quot; the social media company said in a blog post.</p>  <p>&quot;There is clear evidence that these organizations have been responsible for attacks against civilians and have engaged in violence in Myanmar, and we want to prevent them from using our services to further inflame tensions on the ground,&quot; it added.</p>  <p>Facebook has previously been accused of failing to stop its platform from being used in a shadowy campaign by the Myanmar military to exacerbate anti-Muslim violence in the southeast Asian country. </p>  <p>The company in August acknowledged it was slow to take action and has since taken down three networks that were being used in the campaign, and has banned several Myanmar military officials from using the platform.</p>  <p>The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012. </p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017. </p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA). <br>  

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Over 4,500 displaced in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Over 4,500 villagers have been displaced by the most recent flareup in fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine state, the UN said Tuesday. </p>  <p>The displacement figure, provided by UN spokesman Farhan Haq, runs through Jan. 7. </p>  <p>Haq said troop movements and clashes have continued over recent days following attacks by the insurgent group on police posts in Buthidaung Township on Jan. 4. </p>  <p>The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs led a Dec. 29-31 mission into the villages of Taung Min Kalar and Kan Sauk in Kyauktaw township and Auk Thin Pone Tan and Hpar Kywe Wa in Ponnagyun township, which were then hosting 1,600 internally displaced persons. </p>  <p>Fighting renewed in Rakhine state in early December between government forces and the rebel Arakan Army, which wants greater autonomy for Rakhine, where the mainly Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group makes up the majority. The Arakan Army does not cite religion as a factor in its insurgency.</p>  <p>*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations

Myanmar monk arrested over football match

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – A leading Buddhist monk was arrested Monday for organizing a youth football competition in the western state of Rakhine, local media reported.

Nanda Saya, the abbot of Mya Tasaung monastery, and his devotee Khine Ni Min were arrested for organizing the match dedicated to the Arakan Army, a Buddhist insurgent group fighting for self-determination in Rakhine.

The football contest was being held in Mrauk-U Township in northern Rakhine state to mark the eighth anniversary of the group.

According to Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service, the pair were arrested following a complaint from a nearby military base.

Citing local police officer Than Phay, the report said they would be prosecuted under the Unlawful Association Act.

The Arakan Army has clashed with government troops in Rakhine and adjacent Chin state, the two poorest regions in Myanmar, and has fought alongside other rebel groups in northern Shan state.

It was among the ethnic forces excluded from a government cease-fire deal in October 2015.

UPDATE 2 – Curfew imposed after clashes near Myanmar-China border

UPDATES WITH CURFEW

By Kyaw ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – The government of Myanmar has imposed an immediate dusk-to-dawn curfew in northeastern Shan State after four ethnic rebel groups launched a joint offensive.

At least eight people died and several others were injured Sunday as rebels attacked military checkpoints, police outposts and the 105th Mile Trade Zone in Muse in Myanmar’s restive Shan near the country’s northern border with China.

A statement from the State Counselor Office said that the armed offensive involved the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

“The curfew was imposed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the area,” it said, adding that one soldier, three police officials, one militia member and three civilians were killed in the attacks.

The over 600-strong army began three separate offensives in the area Sunday, and destroyed two bridges on Mandalay-Muse highway, it said.

It added that the groups retreated after the security force launched counter-attacks.

On Sunday evening, the KIA, TNLA, MNDAA and the Arakan Army (AA) – none of which have signed a recent government-sponsored Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) — issued a joint statement urging civilians to refrain from traveling in the area.

Tar Aik Kyaw from the TNLA’s News and Information Department underlined to Anadolu Agency that the attack is to draw public attention to fighting in mountainous Shan.

“We want the local and international community to see that the ongoing fighting is due to the military advancing into our territory,” he said by phone.

The TNLA, AA and MNDAA, are collectively known as the Northern Alliances.

The previous government excluded the Alliances from participating in the country’s peace process and from signing last year’s major peace deal.

Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with ethnic rebels embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration.

On replacing the military junta in 2011, former President Thein Sein’s administration started peace talks with rebels, which led to the NCA with eight of 21 ethnic groups in October 2015.

However, several major rebel groups — including the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) — refrained.

According to the United Nations humanitarian body, some 4,000 people were displaced in February by fighting between the TNLA and the Shan State Army-South, a signatory to the NCA.

Tar Aik Kyaw said that thousands of government troops had been deployed to the areas where the TNLA operates since February.

“It seems the military is planning to eradicate us from the area,” he claimed.

UPDATE – 8 dead as new clashes break out on Myanmar-China border

UPDATES DEATH TOLL

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – At least eight people have died and several others were injured Sunday when an ethnic armed group attacked a trade zone in Myanmar’s restive Shan State near the country’s northern border with China.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) confirmed to Anadolu Agency that an alliance of three armed groups in northeastern Shan not involved in the country’s peace process attacked police outposts at 105th Mile Trade Zone in Muse Township early Sunday morning.

Tar Aik Kyaw from the TNLA’s News and Information Department underlined that the attack is to draw public attention to fighting in mountainous Shan.

“We want the local and international community to see that the ongoing fighting is due to the military advancing into our territory,” he said by phone.

TNLA, the Arakan Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance party, are collectively known as the Northern Alliances.

The previous government excluded the Alliances from participating in the country’s peace process and from signing last year’s major peace deal.

Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with ethnic rebels embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration.

On replacing the military junta in 2011, former President Thein Sein’s administration started peace talks with rebels, which led to a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with eight of 21 ethnic groups in October 2015.

However, several major rebel groups — including the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) — refrained when the government excluded three groups.

On Sunday evening, the government said that at least eight people — among them one soldier, three police, one militia member and three civilians — were left dead after rebels attacked police and soldier outposts in Muse.

According to a statement from the State Counselor Office, the attacks were carried out by KIA together with Northern Alliance rebels.

A police officer had earlier told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to media, that at least one civilian had died while over a dozen other people — including police and custom officials — had been injured.

According to the United Nations humanitarian body, some 4,000 people were displaced in February by fighting between the TNLA and The Shan State Army-South, a signatory group to the government-sponsored NCA.

Tar Aik Kyaw said that thousands of government troops had been deployed to the areas where the TNLA operates since February.

“It seems the military is planning to eradicate us from the area,” he claimed.

1 dead as new clashes break out on Myanmar-China border

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – At least one civilian has died and several others were injured Sunday when an ethnic armed group attacked a trade zone in Myanmar’s restive Shan State near the country’s northern border with China.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) confirmed to Anadolu Agency that an alliance of three armed groups in northeastern Shan not involved in the country’s peace process attacked police outposts at 105th Mile Trade Zone in Muse Township early Sunday morning.

Tar Aik Kyaw from the TNLA’s News and Information Department underlined that that the attack is to draw public attention to fighting in mountainous Shan.

“We want the local and international community to see that the ongoing fighting is due to the military advancing into our territory,” he said by phone.

TNLA, the Arakan Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance party, are collectively known as the Northern Alliances.

The previous government excluded the Alliances from participating in the country’s peace process and from signing last year’s major peace deal.

Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar (then Burma) has seen over a half-century of armed conflict, with ethnic rebels embarking on a longstanding battle for greater autonomy and self-administration.

On replacing the military junta in 2011, former President Thein Sein’s administration started peace talks with rebels, which led to a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with eight of 21 ethnic groups in October 2015.

However, several major rebel groups — including the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA) — refrained when the government excluded three groups.

On Sunday morning, a police officer in Muse town said at least one civilian had died of a bullet wound while being taking to hospital, and over a dozen had been injured.

“Some police and some custom officials were also injured,” the officer told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to media.

“We can still hear gunfire,” he said.

According to the United Nations humanitarian body, some 4,000 people were displaced in February by fighting between the TNLA and The Shan State Army-South, a signatory group to the government-sponsored NCA.

Tar Aik Kyaw said that thousands of government troops had been deployed to the areas where the TNLA operates since February.

“It seems the military is planning to eradicate us from the area,” he claimed.

Suu Kyi pushes for end to world’s longest civil war

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has instructed a government-appointed peace negotiation body to invite all ethnic armed groups to an upcoming peace conference in Myanmar.

The government has been organizing the Union Peace Conference for late August, but has yet to make it clear if ethnic rebel groups that did not sign last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) would be invited.

Although the conference is based on the NCA — a historic peace deal signed by the previous government and eight rebel groups in October — Suu Kyi is pushing to invite all stakeholders, the government-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Wednesday.

Zaw Htay, president office spokesperson, said that during a meeting Tuesday of the preparatory committee for the conference in political capital Nay Pyi Taw, Suu Kyi — a Nobel Peace laureate — suggested finding the means for all parties to participate.

“Policies outlined at the meeting include works for allowing NCA non-signatory groups to join the conference,” Zaw Htay was quoted as saying.

At least 13 ethnic groups — including major rebels — had refused to sign the NCA due to the previous pro-military government’s exclusion of three small groups.

The ex-president’s administration and powerful military had demanded the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army surrender in order to join the process.

The new government’s negotiator, Tin Myo Win, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that Suu Kyi “is to discuss with them [representatives of the three groups] in Yangon next week about the new government’s peace policy”.

Although the country’s military chief has vowed to support August’s conference to ensure its success, it remains unclear if the three groups would be allowed to join the process.

“We do hope we could find a way for this and they join the 21st century Panglong Peace Conference,” Tin Myo Win said by phone, using the official name for the August meet.

On Wednesday, the Karen National Union — one of the biggest rebel groups in Myanmar and a signatory to the NCA — welcomed the government’s effort to include all players in the process.

“All-inclusiveness would make the country a step closer to end the civil war,” joint secretary Phado Saw Kwe Htoo Win told Anadolu Agency by phone.

Ethnic rebels have been fighting Myanmar’s central government and military for greater autonomy and self-administration since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.

Suu Kyi has made peace and national reconciliation a priority of her National League for Democracy government, which took over in late March following the Nov. 8 election victory.

In 1947, her father, Gen. Aung San, signed the Panglong Agreement with leaders of Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minorities in a conference in Panglong town in Shan state to grant them autonomy.

Aung San was then the deputy chairman of Burma’s Executive Council — effectively a prime ministerial position, but still subject to the British governor’s veto.

His assassination in July 1947 prevented the agreements from reaching fruition, and many ethnic groups took up arms against the central government in wars that continued for decades and took Burma (which became Myanmar) into what became known as “the world’s longest civil war”.