CHILDREN from the Burmese (Myanmar) Rohingya minority are still being detained by the government following the heavy-handed crackdown on the restive Rakhine state in October, said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Calling for de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to ensure their immediate release, Justin Forsyth, the agency’s deputy executive director on Saturday said around a dozen minors were under detention on Buthidaung prison in Rakhine.
“There are some children that are detained in prison, so those are the cases that we’re raising,” he said following a trip to the Southeast Asian country, as quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan.
“Any child that’s detained is an issue for us.”
Forsyth added: “The reality is if you don’t address these issues, particularly for these communities, then it will come back to haunt them, which is partly what has happened.”
— Justin Forsyth (@justinforsyth) April 9, 2017
A UN report last month that compiled interviews with 220 of the estimated 75,000 Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh since October, said Burma’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.
The military, however, has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, despite widespread criticism of her failure to speak out on the plight of the Rohingya, has also made a similar denial.
Last week, she used her first interview with the BBC in years to claim: “I don’t think there’s ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.”
Speaking to the BBC’s special correspondent Fergal Keane on Wednesday, Suu Kyi said, “I’m just a politician. I’m not quite like Margaret Thatcher… but on the other hand, I’m no Mother Teresa either.”
— Justin Forsyth (@justinforsyth) April 8, 2017
More than a million Rohingya live in northwestern Burma‘s Rakhine State, where they are denied citizenship, freedom of movement and access to services such as healthcare. Serious ethnic clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in 2012 in which more than 100 people were killed and some 140,000 were displaced.
Conflict in the region escalated when nine Burmese policemen were killed in attacks on security posts near the Bangladesh border on Oct 9 which led to a crackdown by the Burmese armed forces.