SITTWE, Myanmar — A human rights group said Myanmar government forces opened fire on crowds of ethnic Rohingya in a targeted campaign of violence during recent sectarian strife, as a UN envoy visited the area Wednesday to investigate the unrest.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called for a strong international response to “atrocities” committed during fighting in June between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya. The violence in western Myanmar that left at least 78 people dead has subsided but many tens of thousands remain homeless — mostly Rohingya in need of food, shelter and medical care.
Spokesman for Rakhine state rejected the group’s criticism of the government’s response to the violence. Win Myaing told The Associated Press that allegations that government forces stood and watched as violence wracked the area were “absolutely untrue.” “Security conditions obviously improved day by day when government forces were deployed to control the situation,” Win Myaing said.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said the government “strongly rejects the accusations by some quarters that abuses and excessive use of force were made by the authorities.”
The release of the Human Rights Watch report coincided with a visit by UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana to Rakhine state. His evaluation of the conflict is likely to be regarded as a yardstick for measuring the reforms undertaken by President Thein Sein after Myanmar ended decades of repressive military rule.
Much remains unknown about what transpired in Rakhine state during nearly two weeks of sectarian fighting, rioting and arson attacks because the area was virtually sealed off to the outside world. — AP