CIVILIANS in Burma’s (Myanmar) troubled Rakhine state must exercise maximum restraint and refrain from responding to recent fighting that led to the deaths of security personnel as well as civilians, said the U.N. special adviser to the country.
Vijay Nambiar expressed concern Tuesday at violent attacks by unidentified individuals and groups against border guards and security forces on Oct 9 in three areas of Northern Rakhine that became deadly.
According to Reuters, a skirmish in the region on Tuesday also left four soldiers dead and one injured after they were attacked by suspected Muslim militants. This came after nine border police officers were killed and five were wounded in a clash on Sunday.
The fresh round of violence also claimed another 15 assailants in separate attacks on three police station outposts Sunday in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung townships in Rakhine. Officials said scores of Rohingyas swarmed border guard posts and made off with guns and ammunition, Reuters reported.
Longstanding discrimination by the Buddhist majority against Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine exploded into bloody violence in 2012. More than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, are still in displacement camps.
Nambiar said in a statement that authorities in the capital Naypyitaw informed him that instructions were issued from “the highest levels” to take action in accordance with the law “to maintain peace and avoid escalation.”
“The Special Adviser calls on the civilian population of the area to exercise maximum restraint and not be provoked into any kind of response by targeting other communities or religious groups,” the U.N. said in a statement on Tuesday.
— Aung Aung (@Aungaungsittwe) October 12, 2016
— Netherlands at UN (@NLatUN) October 11, 2016
Nambiar said he recognizes the need for prompt action and sober response of the security forces but urged them to exercise caution to avoid any injuries or loss of innocent civilian lives, collateral damage to properties or perceived harassment of the local population.
“Over the last year, the authorities have shown good organization and discipline in averting any major outbreak of violence between the communities in Rakhine,” he said.
“At this delicate juncture, the local communities at all levels must refuse to be provoked by these incidents and their leaders must work actively to prevent incitement of animosity or mutual hatred between Buddhist and Muslim communities.”
According to the Anadolu Agency, Rohingya advocacy groups worldwide claim the government was launching a violent crackdown on the Muslim minority group.
The groups in a joint statement on Monday claimed 10 innocent Rohingyans were killed by security forces.
“Mass arrests are taking place,” they were quoted as saying, adding the authorities had also arrested many Rohingya women.
“In the past few hours seven Rohingya were shot dead by military forces in Myo Thugyi village in Maungdaw.”
Police Chief Zaw Win on Sunday said authorities have yet to confirm whether the raids were carried out by the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). The RSO is a shadowy outfit that ostensibly represents the Muslim minority group identified by the U.N. as the world’s most persecuted.
— The Irrawaddy (@IrrawaddyNews) October 10, 2016
The government has declared the RSO a terrorist group but experts say the group’s existence is a myth.
“We are not sure if the attackers are from the RSO, but they shouted the word ‘Rohingya’ during the raids,” the police chief said.
The groups said there were no Rohingyan groups that were armed, but Rakhine is home to several non-Rohingya armed organisations.
“It appears some security or local government officials are privately briefing media that Rohingya people carried out the attack. There is no evidence for this,” it said.
“They may be doing so because the attack took place in Rohingya areas, or to use the attack as a pretext for a crackdown on Rohingya.”
Additional reporting from the Associated Press