UN expert warns of looming ‘genocidal violence’ in Myanmar

Citing tensions stoked by forced recruitment, war, and reported arson attacks, the UN special rapporteur compared present conditions in Rakhine State to those that preceded a wave of genocidal massacres eight years ago

Geneva – Myanmar’s Rakhine State is facing a terrifying situation similar to the run up to “genocidal violence” eight years ago against the persecuted Rohingya minority, a UN expert warned Thursday.

Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Thomas Andrews, the special rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar, voiced deep alarm at recent events in the western region.

“The situation in Rakhine State, where the junta is rapidly losing territory to the Arakan Army, is terrifying,” Andrews said.

“For Rohingya people—oppressed, scapegoated, exploited, and stuck between warring parties—the situation carries echoes of the lead-up to genocidal violence in 2016 and 2017.”

Clashes have rocked Rakhine State since the Arakan Army (AA, which recently changed its name to the Arakha Army) attacked security forces in November.

The attacks ended a ceasefire that had largely held—except for a few months of fighting in 2022—since 2020, predating the military coup of 2021 that ended a short-lived experiment with democracy in Myanmar. 

AA fighters have seized swathes of territory, piling pressure on the junta as it battles opponents elsewhere.

Andrews, an independent expert appointed by the rights council who does not speak on behalf of the UN, said the military had been conscripting “thousands of Rohingya youth and mobilising them against the Arakan Army”.

“Even though many Rohingya young men have been taken to the front lines of the conflict against their will, the potential for retaliation by members of the Arakan community, and a downward spiral of violence, is enormous,” he cautioned, using an alternative name for the Rakhine State’s ethnic majority, the Rakhine people.

Andrews said there were reports linking AA soldiers to rights violations against Rohingya civilians at a time when the humanitarian situation for both Rohingya and Rakhine people was “extremely dire”.

He said “tens, if not hundreds of thousands, have been displaced in Rakhine State”.

In May, the AA said it had seized the town of Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, home to many Rohingya Muslims.

Several Rohingya diaspora groups later accused the AA of forcing Rohingya to flee and then looting and burning their homes—claims the AA called “propaganda”.

The AA, which has vowed to capture the whole of Rakhine State, rebranded as the “Arakha Army” in April as a show of its interest in representing all ethnic communities in the state, not only the Rakhine Buddhist population.

Related Articles

Back to top button