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Geneva, July 3, 2019:

A United Nations investigator said on Tuesday that Myanmar security forces and insurgents are committing human rights violations against civilians in western states that may amount to fresh ‘war crimes’ raising fresh concern in the conflict-torn nation.

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It may be mentioned that a 2017 military crackdown drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. UN investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

The Myanmar government denies committing those atrocities and says its military campaign across northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya militants.

Government troops are currently fighting ethnic rebels in conflict-torn Rakhine and Chin states. The Arakan Army (AA) is an insurgent group that is fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine State.

On June 22, authorities ordered telecoms companies to shut down internet services in the two states. Telenor Group said the ministry of transport and communications had cited “disturbances of peace and use of internet activities to coordinate illegal activities.”

Yanghee Lee, the UN independent expert on human rights in Myanmar, said last week the army may be committing gross human rights violations under cover of a mobile phone blackout in Rakhine and Chin, but on Tuesday she went further.

Lee said that the conflict with the Arakan Army in northern Rakhine State and parts of southern Chin State has continued over the past few months and the impact on civilians is devastating. He further alleged that many acts of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) and the Arakan Army violate international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes, as well as violating human rights.

Lee cited reports of civilians, mostly ethnic Rakhine men, being detained and interrogated by the Tatmadaw for suspected links to the AA and said several had died in custody. In April, a military helicopter opened fire on Rohingya men and boys collecting bamboo, she said.

Some 35,000 people have fled the violence this year, she said.

Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has denied these claims and said that the Myanmar government had declared a ceasefire through August and was trying to bring about ‘national reconciliation’.

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