US urges Myanmar security forces to protect civilians, aid workers amid Rohingya violence

Ethnic Rakhine children who escaped from unrest taking a rest at a temporary shelter in Sittwe, Rakhine State on Aug 30, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS/COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH (REUTERS) - US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday (Aug 31) urged security forces in Myanmar to adhere to international law and avoid attacking innocent civilians as they try to prevent further violence by Rohingya militants in the country's Rakhine state.

Haley condemned the recent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but added "as Burmese security forces act to prevent further violence, they have a responsibility to adhere to international humanitarian law, which includes refraining from attacking innocent civilians and humanitarian workers."

She urged security forces to ensure aid reaches those in need and to ensure the rights of all communities.

Around 27,400 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar during the past week and a further 20,000 are marooned in no man's land between the two countries, three UN sources said on Thursday.

Bangladesh's border guards earlier on Thursday recovered the bodies of 20 Rohingya women and children whose boat capsized, an official said, as they fled violence in Myanmar amid rising pressure on Bangladesh to shelter thousands of others marooned at its land borders.

A series of coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in the north of Myanmar's Rakhine state have led to a massive military crackdown since Friday, and the ongoing clashes have so far killed at least 117 people, most of them Rohingya insurgents but also security officials.

Myanmar has evacuated thousands of Rakhine Buddhists from the area.

Bangladesh on Wednesday pushed back a total of 366 Rohingya trying to enter the country mainly by small wooden boats, though thousands of others have set up temporary camps along the porous land border between the countries.

On Thursday, the bodies of 11 Rohingya children and nine women washed up on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River that separates the two countries as their boat overturned, said Ariful Islam, a commander with Bangladesh's border guards.

The bodies of two Rohingya women and two children had been recovered on Wednesday after their boat was fired on by Myanmar's Border Guard Police, Islam said.

SPH Brightcove Video
More than 18,000 Rohingya Muslims, many sick and wounded, flee the worst violence to grip northwest Myanmar in years, while thousands more are stuck at the Bangladesh border or scrambling to reach it.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.