On the evening of 3 April, two military helicopters flew over Hpon Nyo Leik village in south Buthidaung township in Myanmar, firing on Rohingya Muslims who were tending their cows and paddy fields. According to the sources, at least seven civilians have been killed and more than 18 injured. The UN Human Rights Office has condemned the Myanmar military- called the Tatmadew- for again carrying out attacks against civilians and have been blamed for their “genocidal intent.”
As the conflict between the military and the Arakan army- an armed insurgent group which directly recruits from the Rakhine population- brews, concerns have risen. Mainly Buddhist in nature, the Arakan army was formulated in response to the economic and social injustice grievances that the Arakanese population faced. Built on the manifesto of “safeguarding and promotion of national identity and cultural heritage of the Arakan people,” the Arakan army has been active since 2009, involved in multiple internal conflicts within, and designated as a terrorist organization by the state of Myanmar. The most recent violent activity stems from when the army attacked several police posts in January and since then, the number of attacks on both sides has led to civilians being caught in the middle.
The attack was carried out in an area where thousands of Rohingya were taking shelter having fled earlier fighting. Ravina Shamdasani, a UN spokesperson, said that there were “credible reports of the killing of civilians, burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, abductions, indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, and damage to cultural property.” More than 20,000 people have been displaced in the upsurge of fighting across five townships in Rakhine state. The violence further disturbs other ethnic groups in Rakhine and Chin States, including Rakhine, Rohingya, Chin, Mro and Daignet. Arakan army spokesperson Khin Thu Kha was quoted as reported by Reuters news agency, “They bombed everywhere, believing there were Arakan Army members in the jungle. All of them were bamboo workers.” The UN Human Rights Office believed the effect of violence “has been exacerbated by the government’s near-suspension of humanitarian access.” Due to the constant tension, this has led to halting of implementation of multiple UN programs and other aid projects.
An immediate ceasefire has been called for between the Burmese military and the Arakan army so as to protect the innocents. “As the international community is taking steps towards accountability for the crimes committed against civilians in previous years, the Myanmar military is again carrying out attacks against its own civilians – attacks which may constitute war crimes,” Ms. Shamdasani added. “The consequences of impunity will continue to be deadly.”