Govt Rejects Human Rights Report on Arakan State Violence

By The Irrawaddy 16 November 2016

RANGOON — The Burmese government rejected a Human Rights Watch report that said more than 400 buildings in three Rohingya Muslim villages in northern Maungdaw Township were burned.

During an urgent press conference held by the President’s Office in Naypyidaw on Wednesday afternoon, spokesperson U Zaw Htay alleged that there were errors in the report and that some media organizations had written articles based on incorrect information.

Human Rights Watch said that on Nov. 13 it had identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages in northern Maungdaw by analyzing high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of Oct. 22, Nov. 3 and Nov 10. The report stated that 85 buildings were destroyed in the village of Pyaung Pyit (Ngar Sar Kyu), 245 in Kyet Yoe Pyin, and 100 in Wa Peik (Kyee Kan Pyin).

“When the report came out, we conducted an investigation in the area…and found that the accusations were far different from the reality on the ground,” U Zaw Htay said.

U Zaw Htay said the actual number of burned buildings was 20 in Pyaung Pyit, 30 in Kyet Yoe Pyin and 105 in Wa Peik, adding that those incidents were acts of arson committed by militants.

“We already released information about the arson incidents on Nov. 14,” he said.

During the press conference, Maj-Gen Soe Naing Oo from the Ministry of Defense said that over the weekend a Burma Army column fell under siege with more than 830 people attacking with guns from three different locations.

“We handled the situation carefully by using rubber bullets to disperse the crowd but the column commander was fatally shot. To save the lives of other security forces and maintain the army’s dignity, a helicopter gunship with a 7.62mm medium machine gun was sent. Our actions were in line with the Geneva Conventions,” he said.

State media reported that the weekend clashes resulted in at least 27 deaths. The recent conflict is the largest escalation since violence erupted a month ago.

On Wednesday, U Zaw Htay said the State Counselor’s Office had formed a 7-member committee from the Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Border Affairs, Home Affairs and the President’s Office, in order to release real time information about the situation in Arakan State.

This article has been updated.