RANGOON —A 10-member international delegation encouraged Burma’s government to resume humanitarian aid, conduct an independent and credible investigation, and ensure rule of law in Arakan State’s Maungdaw area after wrapping up a two-day observation trip to the vicinity.
At a press conference in Rangoon on Friday morning, members of the delegation which included nine ambassadors and the UN’s Burma coordinator reported that the group had visited 10 villages and spoken to many residents in the area that has been under lockdown by security forces since October 9.
UN resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien said the importance of the mission conducted on Wednesday and Thursday was that it was the first international access into the zone since Oct. 9.
“I want to reiterate that we were not an investigation team. We were not capable of carrying out an investigation,’’ she said.
The Irrawaddy asked if the delegates had seen evidence of significant human rights violations or villages burned down by authorities. US Ambassador Scot Marciel said that the group had seen some burned houses but not whole villages. He added that some villagers who had fled and returned had reported that there were additional destroyed homes, but the delegation did not have sufficient time for a comprehensive visit and was not taken to all areas that were the source of serious allegations.
Asked about accusations of rape against security forces, Renata Lok-Dessallien told reporters that during the delegation’s visit no one had reported sexual abuse to them.
“It was not possible to verify whether these allegations were true or not. The conditions in which we talked to the villagers were not conducive to having the kind of conversations that we needed to have [to elicit such information],” said Lok-Dessallien.
The delegation did not visit U Shey Kya village—which Reuters reported was the location of alleged rapes committed by military officials—due to lack of time, ambassador Marciel said.
Lok-Dessallien said the delegation had spoken with the local government, which had agreed to allow humanitarian assistance into the area for villagers who had fled during the clashes.
The delegation left northern Arakan State on Thursday afternoon. At 6 pm on the same day one police officer died and one was injured when five men on three motorbikes launched a gun attack on a police post in Maungdaw Township’s Nurula village, according to a President’s Office statement.
Police seized one homemade bomb and four pistols along with the motorbikes.
Responding to news of the latest attack, Lok-Dessallien said, “We don’t know the details of this attack, but if it’s confirmed to be another attack against the border guard forces, we are deeply concerned.”
The delegation strongly encouraged Burma’s government to maintain rule of law in the area.
“We want to stress our support for the government and make a strong public statement stressing that security operations must be done in accordance with the rule of law,” Lok-Dessallien added.
EU ambassador Roland Kobia said, “We should not forget that 15 members of the security forces have been killed …Yesterday’s attack and the attack on Oct. 9 show that there is a very serious situation on the ground. These problems need to be addressed for both immediate solutions—in regards to humanitarian assistance—and long term solutions, in terms of bridging these divides and stopping the conflict.”