Yayasan Geutanyoe

Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access in Rakhine State, Myanmar

On 9 October, a series of attacks on three border guard posts by armed assailants believed to be from the Rohingya community in the townships of Maungdaw and Rathedaung in Rakhine State left nine policemen dead. Following these attacks, the Myanmar military launched counter-insurgency operations in the districts on Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, where 90% of the population are Rohingya Muslims.

The Geutanyoe Foundation condemns all acts of violence in Rakhine State and is deeply concerned for the well-being of people trapped in the military operation zones. We are particularly alarmed by the lack of access to humanitarian assistance for an estimated 10-15,000 internally displaced people from both Rohingya and Rakhine communities, as well as 50,000 food insecure people in Maungdaw who WFP reports to be cut off from food aid as a result of the crackdown. We are also extremely concerned by the reports of human rights violations by security forces, including extrajudicial killings, the burning of homes and sexual violence against civilians, and call for an independent investigation to be conducted into these allegations.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to all individuals and communities in the affected areas, as well as for adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including the protection of civilians and the principles of proportionality and distinction in the conduct of military operations, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions which was ratified by Myanmar in 1992. Myanmar is also party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which outline obligations to protect children and women in armed conflict. We also call for all perpetrators of human rights abuses to be held accountable for their actions.

In addition, we call on governments in the ASEAN region to push for immediate humanitarian access in areas under military operation in Rakhine and to urge Myanmar to address the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine, including the statelessness of the Rohingya minority and the systematic denial of their basic human rights. We call on the Secretary General of ASEAN, in his capacity as ASEAN Humanitarian Coordinator, to engage in humanitarian diplomacy with the Government of Myanmar to urge immediate humanitarian access. We also urge ASEAN governments to prepare for the possibility of a renewed refugee outflow from Rakhine State as a result of the escalation of the conflict and increased insecurity. In this regard, ASEAN governments should make real the commitments articulated in the Bali Declaration 2016, which recognises the need to protect asylum seekers and refugees and facilitate safe disembarkation.

Last but not least, we call on Rohingya communities worldwide to reject violence and to commit to principles of non-violence and humanity in their struggle for the restoration of their fundamental human rights.

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