Civilians Trapped by Violence in Myanmar

Civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been displaced by a recent surge in violence Civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been displaced by a recent surge in violence RICHARD SARGENT/AFP

09 March 2020

An increase in fighting has killed and injured numerous civilians

A rise in violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since the end of February 2020 has killed and injured many civilians and added to the humanitarian crisis that has been ravaging the area. Media reports that 18 civilians were killed and 71 were injured, but numbers could be higher as the government-led mobile network blackout has caused delays in information-gathering. Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, stated, “The government should immediately restore full internet access so that abuses can be reported, and aid agencies can do their jobs.”

Fighting has raged between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine armed group, since the end of January 2020. The violence had already resulted in numerous civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property even before it had significantly escalated a few weeks ago. Human Rights Watch reports that nearly 100,000 people have been displaced by this conflict. Many of those affected by violence are having difficulties receiving aid because of the government restrictions to access of the Rakhine State. 

Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement regarding the internet blackout. “The blanket suspension of mobile internet cannot be justified and must end immediately. The government must also lift its restrictions and grant immediate access to the media, humanitarian organisations and human rights monitors.” Additionally, Human Rights Watch mentioned the international laws of war that apply to both the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, stating “The laws of war obligate the parties to a conflict to take constant care during military operations to spare the civilian population and to take all feasible precautions to minimize incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects.”


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Author: Vito Quaglia; Editor: Rachel Warner

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