The Myanmar government said Thursday that photos showing alleged rights violations in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township are fake, despite reports by the United Nations and rights groups that security forces there have killed unarmed residents, burned down villages, and made arbitrary arrests.
The U.N. and rights groups have accused soldiers and police of violating the rights of civilians during their sweep of the Muslim-majority area in northern Rakhine state following deadly raids earlier this month on border patrol posts and ensuing clashes between soldiers and police and groups of armed men. Some say the death toll from the violence has been greater that what has been reported.
The government has accused an extremist Muslim terrorist organization funded by Islamists abroad for the attack, and have locked down the area to search for the perpetrators. Muslim Rohingya groups have asserted that security forces deployed in Maungdaw have committed rape and other forms of violence under the cover of the antiterrorism campaign.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay, who is also deputy director-general of the President’s Office, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that people in other countries sent old photos and videos to the U.N., rights groups and international news organizations of communal violence that took place four years ago between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, trying to pass the images off as current.
The 2012 clashes left more than 200 people dead and displaced 140,000 Muslims who ended up in internal refugee camps.
“Some also posted them on social networks like Twitter as if they were [images of] the problems right now in Rakhine state,” he said. “And because they did this, the media might think they are current photos and videos of Rakhine state.”
“We will explain to the media and organizations that these photos and videos are not from the problem in Rakhine state right now,” he said. “They are not real.”
“I asked relevant officials and organizations in Rakhine state, and I know there are no cases like this in Rakhine,” he said.
After the attacks on the border guard posts on Oct. 9, the government mobilized army soldiers and border police in Maungdaw to conduct a sweep of the area for 400 other people, believed to be local Muslims, thought to have been involved in the attacks.
“From the beginning, we ordered relevant organizations and departments to do the security sweep operation very carefully in Rakhine state after the Maungdaw attack,” Zaw Htay said.
Soldiers and border police have also prohibited the media and the U.N.’s World Food Programme from accessing Maungdaw for security purposes.
“There are many people who support terrorists,” he said. “They make big media campaigns, and it seems they get a lot of funding. As we already know about this, we are always warning relevant organizations to do things very carefully.”
Full story: rfa.org
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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