An international human rights group has called on Myanmar to stop using landmines that are killing and maiming Rohingya refugees as they continue to flee violence in Rakhine state.
Fortify Rights reports that since August, it and other monitoring groups had documented use of antipersonnel landmines by the Myanmar military in northern Rakhine state.
Muslim Rohingya residents continue to flee Rakhine. Some 1,000 Rohingya from Buthidaung Township recently arrived in Maungdaw Township, northern Rakhine, and reported they were on their way to Bangladesh, a Myanmar official there told Yangon-based Eleven Media.
“We asked them: where do you come from? Why are you leaving? Why don’t you return back to your original village?” Dr Than Tun, a local healthcare official, said.
“We told them that if they returned to their native [village], the government would provide them with aid including accommodation. But they declined.”
Over 607,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar army began “clearance operations” in response to the coordinated killings of security personnel by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on August 25.
Myanmar has one of the few militaries, along with North Korea and Syria, which has openly used anti-personnel mines in recent years, Amnesty International reports. In September, Amnesty accused Myanmar of targeted use of landmines along a narrow stretch of the north-western border of Rakhine state that is a crossing point for fleeing Rohingya. It cited testimony and injuries of fleeing Rohingya in its report.
Fortify Rights says that nine of the 14 states and regions in Myanmar are contaminated with landmines, making it the world’s third-most landmine-contaminated country, behind Afghanistan and Colombia.
On October 20, two ethnic Ta’ang civilians died from injuries sustained by landmines, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed-group operating in the states of Kachin and Shan, told Fortify Rights. They admitted the KIA also uses antipersonnel landmines.
Fortify Rights called on Myanmar to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
The United Nations on Tuesday named a new interim relief coordinator in Myanmar as the government continues to block demands that humanitarian workers be allowed to reach Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state. Knut Ostby of Norway has been appointed the UN coordinator from yesterday.
The UN is urging Myanmar authorities to end the military campaign, grant permission to aid workers to reach those in need in Rakhine and allow the return of the Rohingya from Bangladesh.
Diplomats however say China, a supporter of Myanmar’s former ruling junta, is resisting calls for the top UN body to step up pressure on the government.