Thursday, November 3, 2016

International Delegation Set to Wrap Up Arakan State Visit

The 10-member international delegation visiting northern Arakan State in relation to allegations of human rights abuses by the Burma Army was continuing its visits to villages in the area on Thursday, Nov. 3.Five villages in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships were due to be visited on the concluding day of the two-day trip, according to Arakan State government secretary U Tin Maung Swe.
International human rights groups and diplomats requested access to the Muslim-majority area near the border with Bangladesh last week.
Access to the area has been severely restricted for humanitarian agencies and independent media, but this week Burma’s foreign affairs ministry allowed the international delegation—including US ambassador Scot Marciel, British ambassador Andrew Patrick, EU ambassador Roland Kobia, Chinese ambassador Hong Liang, and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Renata Dessallien—to embark on a carefully managed visit led by state officials.
Only government-controlled media were allowed to accompany the delegates.
The delegation visited Kyee Kan Pyin, Nga Khura, Nga Sa Kyu, Kyein Chaung, and Pyaung Pike villages, all of which allegedly sustained heavy damage during the Burma Army’s search for the outpost attackers, said U Tin Maung Swe.
He claimed that the delegates were able to meet freely with Muslim residents, and he hoped that the delegation members would take the testimonies of villagers into account as they continue to investigate the recent attacks.
Such claims by one of the perpetrators of the genocidal crime is nothing new in Myanmar. U Tin hopes that the world community will fall for such propaganda.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference in Washington that the visit “was an initial step in what we hope will be a continued assessment of the situation in the area by the government and by the international community,” Reuters reported on Thursday.
The US ambassador Scot Marciel had taken “the opportunity to stress to government officials accompanying the delegation that a thorough investigation into allegations of abuse, protection of all residents, restoration of full humanitarian access are necessary,” Kirby told the regular news briefing.
A Burmese reporter accompanying the delegation—who has been following coverage of the upheaval in Maungdaw and who asked to remain anonymous—said that it was unclear during the visit yesterday whether damage to property, including the burning of houses in at least three villages identified by Human Rights Watch via satellite imagery, was carried out by assailants or by authorities.
Meanwhile U Tha Aye, a Muslim from Arakan State who currently lives in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he had been informed by residents near Kyee Kan Pyi village that authorities took at least 100 people in for questioning after villagers spoke with the international delegation. He was unable to say whether they had been formally arrested.
Other reporters in the area said that three suspects in the village were detained by police but were released the same day.
One of those released told The Irrawaddy by phone on Thursday morning that he was now in hiding because of fears for his safety.
Maungdaw resident U Than Soe Naing echoed reports that border police searched Kyee Kan Pyi after the delegation left, but this was denied by a police officer in the village, U Tun Zaw Oo during a phone conversation with The Irrawaddy.
The delegates are due to visit Ahlay Than Kyaw, Kaigyee, and Zaw Ma Tet villages in Maungdaw Township and Koe Tan Kaut village in Rathedaung Township today.

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