Yangon, May 10 (IANS) The UN on Friday criticized the Myanmar government for detaining dozens of people in restive Rakhine over their suspected links with rebels in the western state.
“We are deeply concerned about possibly 40 to 50 ethnic Rakhine boys and men who reportedly remain detained since April 30 in a school … where six detainees were killed on May 2 by the Myanmar Army,” said a statement from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On April 30, the Myanmar Army had detained 275 suspects in Kyauk Tan village, who were accused of collaborating with rebels of the Arakan Army, an ethno-nationalist rebel group of the Rakhine minority.
The group has been fighting against the Myanmar government, seeking autonomy for the region and has intensified clashes with the armed forces in western parts of the country since December, Efe news reported.
The mass detention came two weeks after the Arakan Army attacked two bases of the Myanmar military.
The Army later surrounded the village and forced all males above 15 to report to local schools, where they were allegedly mistreated and detained, before being released in groups. But 50 of them were held back, the report said.
On May 2, the Myanmar Army reported that soldiers in the area opened fire on the detainees, killing six and injuring eight, when they allegedly tried to seize their guns. But other sources have questioned this account.
“They (other sources) say that the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) opened fire indiscriminately after one of the detainees tried to escape. The Army says it has launched an investigation into the incident. After the shooting, the bodies of the six men were reportedly laid out in full view of the village which, as of yesterday, remained surrounded by the military and was said to be running out of food,” the UN statement said.
The Arakan Army, one of the many armed rebel groups in Myanmar, was founded in 2009 by a handful of nationalist students of the Rakhine ethnicity – a minority which follows Buddhism and is primarily settled in the Rakhine province – with an estimated current strength of 7,000 guerrillas.
More than 33,000 people have been displaced during the last four months in clashes between the Arakan Army and the military, according to the UN.
This displacement comes as an addition to that of at least 128,000 displaced members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
Rohingyas are denied citizenship by Myanmar and have been forced to live in refugee camps since 2012 after a wave of sectarian violence between the Rakhine and Rohingya communities.