Armed conflicts displace almost 140,000 in Myanmar

Indo Asian News Service

United Nations, March 10 (IANS) Close to 140,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar since September owing to armed conflicts in several western and northeastern parts of the country, the UN said on Friday.

Most of the displaced are members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state, who have been affected by the campaign of reprisals launched by the military following the armed assault against three border police checkposts on October 9, Efe news reported.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 74,000 of the displaced persons are in refugee camps in Bangladesh while another 20,000 have been internally displaced within Rakhine.

Another 36,000 have had to leave their homes in the states of Shan and Kachin due to fresh clashes between the Myanmar army and a coalition of ethnic guerrilla groups in northeastern Myanmar.

Around 20,000 people have crossed the border into Chinese territory to flee the conflict, authorities in Beijing had said on Thursday.

These figures raise the total number of displaced people throughout the country as a result of armed conflicts and sectarian violence to 260,000, according to the latest estimate by OCHA.

The organisation believes that some 60,000 internally displaced persons are in areas where humanitarian aid cannot reach, including Rakhine, despite authorities declaring the end of the security operation on February 15.

According to OCHA, several refugees have returned to their homes and Myanmar authorities have allowed a gradual resumption of humanitarian activities.

Several organisations have reported that all sorts of atrocities were committed by the military during the campaign, including murder, rape and burning houses.

Clashes in Shan and Kachin, near the Chinese border, have killed around 150 people, including rebels, soldiers and civilians, between November and December.

Seven armed groups have rejected the peace plan proposed by the Myanmar government, led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, while the Myanmar army, which has broad powers under the constitution and veto power in Parliament, continues its offensive.

Greater autonomy is the main demand of almost all minority groups in Myanmar, which include the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kokang, Kayah, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Wa and represent over 30 per cent of the 48 million inhabitants of the country.

Myanmar, which was under military rule between 1962 and 2011, elected its first democratic government, led by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party on November 8, 2015.