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Iran Press TV

UN calls for 'urgent measures' to save civilians in Myanmar's conflict-torn Rakhine

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 28 June 2020 2:48 PM

The United Nations has called for "urgent measures to spare civilians" in conflict-torn northwestern Myanmar, where thousands of people have fled their homes due to the ongoing fighting between the army and Buddhist militants.

The UN in a statement on Sunday expressed concern over "reports of intensified fighting" in northwest Rakhine state's Rathedaung township.

The world body urged both parties to "take urgent measures to spare civilians" trapped in the region, calling on them to respect international humanitarian law as well as reiterating the need for a ceasefire in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, local authorities issued a call to residents of more than 40 villages to evacuate ahead of "clearance operations".

But Border Affairs Minister Colonel Min Than told media outlets Sunday the order was "revoked" because the army was only targeting five villages to flush out the militants.

"It's not a 'clearance operation', but a 'military operation,'" Min Than said.

The wording changes little for local residents however.

Khaing Kyaw, a resident of Kyauk Tan village told AFP that his family had to flee their homes.

"Artillery shells are fired from the town and the creeks to our village," he said. "We are all running and having difficulties with food."

The military has been battling the Arakan Army (AA) in Myanmar's Rakhine and Chin states since January last year. The militant group is seeking more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Scores of civilians have been killed in the area and tens of thousands displaced. The area is home to more than 10,000 civilians,

Local sources said they are either fleeing or are trapped by the ongoing conflict.

On Saturday, government spokesman Zaw Htay said in a statement on Facebook that the army had been instructed not to use the term "clearance operations," which was used back in 2016 and 2017 to describe operations against Rakhine's Rohingya Muslims.

Back then, the army carried out mass killings of villagers and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

More than 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh following a military-led crackdown in 2016 and 2017 that the United Nations (UN) concluded was perpetrated with "genocidal intent."

Thousands of Rohingya people were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmarese soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017.

The Rohingya have inhabited Rakhine for centuries, but the state denies them citizenship. Bangladesh refuses to grant them citizenship, too.

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