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U.N. human rights expert: Myanmar targeting civilians in fight with rebels

By
Don Jacobson
The Myanmar Red Cross moves the body of a World Health Organization worker to an ambulance in Rakhine State, Myanmar, on April 21. The worker died amid ongoing fighting in the largely Rohingya state. Photo by Nyunt Win/EPA-EFE
The Myanmar Red Cross moves the body of a World Health Organization worker to an ambulance in Rakhine State, Myanmar, on April 21. The worker died amid ongoing fighting in the largely Rohingya state. Photo by Nyunt Win/EPA-EFE

April 29 (UPI) -- Myanmar's military is intensifying a bloody campaign against armed rebels and civilians amid the coronavirus pandemic and ignoring a call for cease-fire, a United Nations human rights investigator said Wednesday.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said its military, the Tatmadaw, has increased attacks against the rebel Arakan Army and is increasingly targeting civilians in the western states of Rakhine and Chin and violating international law.

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"While the world is occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine state, targeting the civilian population," she said in a statement.

"Calls for a cease-fire, including by the Arakan Army, have gone unheeded. Instead, the Tatmadaw is inflicting immense suffering on the ethnic communities in Rakhine and Chin."

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Lee called for an investigation into accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Tatmadaw, which she accused of "systematically violating the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights."

Lee said the most recent violence has included air and artillery strikes in civilian areas of Rakhine and Chin States that have killed and injured scores of adults and children, and said the Tatmadaw prevented some of the injured from receiving medical care.

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"Its conduct against the civilian population of Rakhine and Chin States may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," she said. "All parties to the conflict, including the Arakan Army, must also protect civilians."

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Lee said aid workers and journalists are also being targeted by the military.

Hostilities began in 2018 and have killed and injured hundreds and displaced more than 157,000. A year earlier, the Tatmadaw was held responsible for ethnic violence against Mynamar's Muslim Rohingya minority after forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Lee called on leaders to step up efforts to protect civilians, and urged Myanmar to comply with measures in January by the International Court of Justice that ordered emergency measures to prevent Rohingya genocide.

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