UNITED NATIONS: A new UN report puts Myanmar’s armed forces on a UN blacklist of government and rebel groups “credibly suspected” of carrying out rapes and other acts of sexual violence in conflict for the first time.
An advance copy of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report to the Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, says international medical staff and others in Bangladesh have documented that many of the almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar “bear the physical and psychological scars of brutal sexual assault.”
The UN chief said the assaults were allegedly perpetrated by the Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, “at times acting in concert with local militias, in the course of military ‘clearance’ operations in October 2016 and August 2017”.
“The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorise and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return,” Guterres said.
The recent spasm of violence began when Rohingya insurgents launched a series of attacks last Aug 25 on about 30 security outposts and other targets. Myanmar security forces then began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages that the UN and human rights groups have called a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The report, which will be a focus of a UN Security Council meeting on Monday on preventing sexual violence in conflict, puts 51 government, rebel and extremist groups on the list.
Boat with 70 Rohingya Muslims leaves for Malaysia
A boat carrying 70 Rohingya Muslims set out for Malaysia from Myanmar this week, two sources and a rights group said, the latest to embark on a dangerous sea journey.
The vessel will be the second to arrive in Malaysia this month as the Rohingya flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state before the onset of the monsoon season in May brings storms at sea that could endanger their lives.
“The boat should arrive in Malaysian waters in the next week, assuming it doesn’t come under distress or make landfall in Thailand,” said Matthew Smith, co-founder of Fortify Rights, adding that the group had received reports of the boat’s departure on April 12.
Editorial: Rohingyas’ misery
“This is a tremendously dangerous journey,” Smith told Reuters, adding that the passengers faced deprivation of food, water, and physical space as well as the risk of capsizing.
The boat left Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, in the early hours of Thursday, after being initially stopped by authorities, said two sources with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the topic is a sensitive one.
Seventy people were on the boat, both the sources said.
Weather conditions or pushbacks by authorities could carry the boat into Thai or Indonesian waters, one source said.
A Myanmar government spokesman did not immediately respond to telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment.
Last month, Indonesian fishermen rescued at least five Rohingya Muslims off the island of Sumatra, with media saying five more had died at sea.
The UN refugee agency has said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for the Rohingya refugees to return.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018