South Asia

Myanmar Soldiers Attacked, Injured in Troubled Rakhine

Bangladeshi police officers stop a vehicle carrying Muslim activists who were trying to join a long march towards Myanmar to protest against the deaths of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, December 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Bangladeshi police officers stop a vehicle carrying Muslim activists who were trying to join a long march towards Myanmar to protest against the deaths of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, December 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Yangon: Two members of Myanmar‘s security forces were injured in a clash with militants on the troubled Rakhine State border with Bangladesh, Myanmar state counsellor’s office said, casting doubt on the government’s claim that the region had stabilised.

The government last week said that the situation in northern Rakhine had stabilised and that it had ended a four-month security crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

The security operation had been under way since nine policemen were killed in attacks on security posts near the Bangladesh border on October 9. Almost 69,000 Rohingyas have since fled to Bangladesh, according to UN estimates.

The UN has said that the security crackdown may amount to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

Two soldiers were wounded in a five-minute clash with an armed group on the border with Bangladesh on Friday afternoon, the state counsellor’s said in a statement late on Saturday.

“The forces providing security to workers preparing the border fence between the mile post 56 and 57 in Buthidaung township were attacked by about 30 unidentified armed men in black uniforms positioned on hills on the Bangladeshi side,” the statement said, adding that the armed men withdrew after security forces returned fire.

The security forces were still gathering information to identify how many members from the armed group were injured or killed during the clash, the office said in the short statement.

Bangladesh border guards could not immediately be contacted.

The Myanmar state counsellor’s office and military did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Myanmar‘s government blamed Rohingyas, supported by foreign militants, for the October 9 attacks on police, but has issued scant information about the assailants it called “terrorists.”

A group of Rohingya Muslims involved in the October attacks is headed by people with links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the International Crisis Group said in a report last year.

The government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine, including mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims, and said the operation was a lawful counter-insurgency campaign.

The violence has renewed international criticism that the Myanmar leader has done too little to help members of the Muslim minority, many of whom live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Myanmar.

Rohingya Muslims have faced discrimination in Myanmar for generations. They are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and many are entitled only to limited rights.