Yangon : The Myanmar Army has bombed villages and are blocking civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance amid a crackdown targeting rebels in the troubled Rakhine State, the Amnesty International said on Monday.
The non-profit, in its latest report, said soldiers were also using “vague and repressive laws” to detain civilians as part of the offensive that began on January 4 when Arakan Army rebels raided police stations and killed 13 officers, reports Efe news.
At least 5,200 people, according to the UN, have been displaced by the fighting after the Army launched the operation to annihilate insurgents, described as terrorists by the government.
“These latest operations are yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights. Shelling inhabited villages and withholding food supplies are unjustifiable under any circumstances,” said Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International.
Hassan accused the Myanmar authorities of “deliberately playing with the lives and livelihoods of civilians”.
Authorities have established restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid from international agencies, except the Red Cross and the UN’s World Food Programme, to five districts where clashes are ongoing, according to the rights group.
A witness told Amnesty that the Army was also imposing restrictions on the purchase and sale of essential commodities such as rice.
Amnesty said at least 26 people have been arrested for illegal association with the Arakan Army, a crime punishable by harsh prison sentences.
The Arakan Army was formed in 2009 to achieve greater autonomy for the Buddhist minority in Rakhine State.
Rakhine State is home to the Rohingya, a Muslim-majority community, who have been denied citizenship as the government calls them illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
More than 723,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 following an Army offensive.
Rakhine State, which occupies a long coastal strip in western Myanmar, is an area with rich natural resources and a key geostrategic location, but with also one of the highest rates of poverty in the country.