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U.N. Rights Commissioner condemns deaths of 32 in Myanmar ethnic fighting

Hundreds of Rohingya enter Bangladesh from Budichong, Myanmar. On Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville decried the deaths of 32 people in Rakhine and Chin states, Myanmar, in fighting between government troops and the ethnic Arakan Army. File Photo by Abir Abdullah/EPA-EFE
Hundreds of Rohingya enter Bangladesh from Budichong, Myanmar. On Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville decried the deaths of 32 people in Rakhine and Chin states, Myanmar, in fighting between government troops and the ethnic Arakan Army. File Photo by Abir Abdullah/EPA-EFE

April 17 (UPI) -- At least 32 deaths, mainly women and children, were attributed to fighting in Myanmar on Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

The fighting in Myanmar's Rakhine and Chin states, between government forces and the Arakan Army, which seeks greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine people, has been ongoing for over a year.

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"There has been a spike in violence between the ethnic Arakan Army armed group and the Myanmar army, impacting civilians of all ethnic groups living in the area, including Rohingya, Rakhine, Chin, Mro, Daignet and others," High Commissioner Rupert Colville said in a statement. "Myanmar's military has been carrying out almost daily airstrikes and shelling in populated areas resulting in at least 32 deaths and 71 injuries since 23 March, the majority women and children, and destroying and burning schools and homes."

He added that a proposed cease-fire to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has been ignored, although Myanmar has reported four deaths and 85 cases of the virus. Colville also said that because of an Internet blackout in nine towns since June 2019, it is "difficult to get precise information from Rakhine."

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The Arakan Army declared an April cease-fire because of the pandemic, but a government spokesman said that since a prior truce was ignored by the insurgents, the Myanmar military rejected it.

Colville's statement also mentioned the discovery of 30 dead Rohingya refugees from Myanmar found aboard a boat in the Bay of Bengal, as well as nearly 400 more refugees, alive but severely dehydrated and malnourished after two months at sea. The ship, bound for Malaysia but not permitted to arrive in port, turned up in Bangladesh on Thursday.

"All states should ensure that their responses to migrants in distress at sea are based on international human rights and refugee law, and that they are permitted safe disembarkation," said Colville.

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