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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Voler Turk, sounded warnings concerning a grave threat to the civilian population, specifically the embattled Rohingya Muslim community amidst fighting between Junta forces and the Rakhine EAO Arakan Army. Clashes since November have displaced approximately 300,000 people, according to UN estimates.

The top UN rights chief warned that while Rohingyas were the victims of a state-sanctioned genocidal operation in 2017, this time they faced a double threat. The second actor, the Arakan Army, has broad support from the majority Rakhine population, traditionally hostile to the Rohingyas. On the other hand, the Myanmar military stands accused of perpetuating a genocide of Rohingya Muslims since the advent of military takeover more than six decades ago.

“Arakan State has once again become a battleground involving multiple actors, and civilians are paying a heavy price, with Rohingya at particular risk,” the High Commissioner said. “What is particularly disturbing is that whereas in 2017, the Rohingya were targeted by one group, they are now trapped between two armed factions who have a track record of killing them. We must not allow the Rohingya to be targeted again.”

The AA has followed a strategy of positioning mobile units along Rohingya villages, knowing well that the Junta’s artillery and airstrikes would hit the civilian population in those settlements. Many Rohingya activists allege the AA’s strategy has the ultimate objective of killing as many Rohingya civilians as possible without dirtying their own hands, as the plight of the Rohingya has raised more awareness among the international community following the genocide of 2017.

However, many Rohingya activists allege the AA is also involved in the direct persecution of Rohingya civilians, with arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances becoming increasingly common in recent days.

Meanwhile, the UN rights chief also noted the Junta was forcing Rohingya men into the draft. “Facing defeat, the military has outrageously started to forcibly conscript, bribe, and coerce Rohingya into joining their ranks. It is unconscionable that they should be targeted in this way, given the appalling events of six years ago, and the ongoing extreme discrimination against the Rohingya, including the denial of citizenship,” Türk said. Incidentally, many Rohingyas refusing the draft have been killed, while hundreds have been arrested and taken to undisclosed locations.

Turk has directed the UN human rights office to investigate allegations that the military has forced Rohingyas to burn Rakhine villages in an effort to sow ethnic and communal discord in the tense Arakan state. Observers have, however, warned that any investigation into Arakan will be difficult as internet and telecommunications remain down amid a communication blackout in Arakan state.

The Junta’s policy of sowing divisions among the two major communities of Arakan is widely perceived as a last-ditch attempt to stave off complete defeat in Arakan state as they hope Rohingyas and Rakhines will start a major conflict among themselves, allowing an opening for Junta forces that have continued to lose ground to the AA following the start of fresh hostilities in November.

“The alarm bells are ringing, and we must not allow there to be a repeat of the past,” Türk said. “Countries with influence on the Myanmar military and armed groups involved must act now to protect all civilians in Arakan State and prevent another episode of horrendous persecution of the Rohingya.”

Rohingya Vision News