New conflict in Rakhine, nearly half a million Rohingya fled to save their lives

Last Updated on May 27, 2024 10:56 am

A renewed conflict has erupted in Myanmar’s violent western state of Rakhine. In this incident, 45 thousand people of the local Rohingya ethnic group fled. They left Rakhine in the fear of killing and beheading.
Al-Jazeera reported this information in a report on Saturday (May 25).

A further 45,000 Rohingya minority have been forced to flee due to rising violence in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine state, the report said. The information came amid allegations of beheadings, killings and property burning in the conflict-torn region.

Earlier in November last year, a rebel armed group called the Arakan Army (AA) launched an offensive against the country’s ruling junta government forces. Since then there has been a massive conflict in Rakhine state. The fighting also ended a ceasefire following a military coup in 2021.

Members of Rakhine’s Muslim minority are caught up in the deadly fighting. Basically, Muslims have long been considered outsiders there.

The Arakan Army says it is fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine’s ethnic Rakhine population. There are currently about 600,000 members of the persecuted minority Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine.

In 2017, millions of Rohingyas fled Rakhine and sought refuge in Bangladesh due to the country’s army’s bloody campaign. The UN Genocide Court case is going on against the Myanmar army in this incident.

Elizabeth Throssel, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, told reporters in Geneva last Friday that fighting in the cities of Buthidung and Maungdu has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians in recent days.

He said that approximately 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to the Naf River area near the Bangladesh border for safety. He also called for the protection of civilians according to international law.

He said UN human rights chief Volker Turk called on Bangladesh and other countries to “ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in providing effective protection and shelter to Rohingya refugees in Myanmar in accordance with international law”.

But Al-Jazeera’s Tanveer Chowdhury said from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, that the country already has more than a million Rohingya, and the government is therefore reluctant to shelter more refugees stuck on the Myanmar side of the border.

James Rodehaver, head of the UN Rights Office’s Myanmar team, described many fleeing dire conditions.

He said his team had obtained evidence and also seen related satellite images, online videos and pictures. And it indicated that the town of Buthidang was ‘extensively burnt’.

He also said, “There are indications that the burning started on May 17, two days after the army retreated from the town … and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control of the village.”

A survivor reported seeing dozens of bodies as he fled Buthidang. Another said he was among thousands of people who fled the city after being blocked by the Arakan Army on a road west of Maungdoo.

Other survivors of the conflict also said members of the Arakan Army mistreated them and extorted money from them.

Rodehaver said the human rights office had documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both the Arakan Army and the military in northern Rakhine, including airstrikes, in the weeks since the burning of Buthidang.

Stating that the party has recorded “at least four incidents of beheading”, he added that these incidents are believed to have been carried out by the Arakan Army.

Even before this, however, there have been allegations of using the Rohingya as human shields. Al Jazeera’s Tanveer Chowdhury says the Rohingya are “caught in the middle” of the conflict.

“They are in a precarious situation,” he said. Rohingya refugees who recently fled Myanmar told him that both the Arakan Army and the military tried to engage them in war.

He also said, “If they do not join the war, they have been threatened that their villages will be burnt.”

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