Joint Open Letter to the UN Security Council on the escalating crisis in Rakhine State


Joint Open Letter to the UN Security Council on the escalating crisis in Rakhine State

To:          Members of the UN Security Council

Copy:    Members of the UN Human Rights Council
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

27 June 2024

Re: UN Security Council must take immediate intervention to coordinate protection of Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar

Your Excellencies,

We, 89 Myanmar, regional, and international civil society organizations, strongly urge the UN Security Council (UNSC) to immediately convene an emergency meeting and coordinate an intervention to halt surging violence and atrocities, and protect Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Rakhine State and across Myanmar. We call on the UNSC to urgently adopt a binding resolution with targeted economic sanctions, an arms and aviation fuel embargo against the junta, and a referral of the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a creation of a criminal tribunal.

In recent months, the Myanmar military junta’s war of terror against Myanmar people and its fighting with the Arakan Army (AA) have resulted in horrendous human rights violations and international crimes in Rakhine State. Across the country civilian populations from Rohingya, Rakhine, KamanChinMro, and other ethnic communities are suffering the constant reality of the junta’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, including airstrikes, artillery shelling, and massacres, with no end in sight. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported to the Human Rights Council on 18 June, “The military has lost control over a considerable amount of territory, so it is resorting to increasingly extreme measures.”

Reports indicate that, on 17 May, Rohingya homes have been targeted, looted, and torched, and four Rohingya civilians were beheaded by AA troops in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State. Over 200,000 Rohingya civilians in Buthidaung Township—home to Rohingya survivors from 2017 genocide—have been forcbily displaced in consequence of the AA’s arson attacks, abductions, enforced disappearance, and other serious human rights abuses, as well as its intense fighting with the military junta. Amidst reports of blocked roads and extortion by AA soldiers, Rohingya have been displaced in open fields with no access to medicine, clean water, and adequate food. Many have lost direct contact with their families due to telecommunication blackouts imposed by the junta, and some have had their phones taken away by AA soldiers, leaving their families in the dark about their fates.

Atrocities against the Rakhine ethnic group by the Myanmar military junta are also pervasive. On 29 May, the junta brutally tortured and massacred at least 76 men, with knives, gunfire and beatings, and burned most of their bodies to destroy the evidence, during a raid of Byine Phyu Village, Sittwe Township, Rakhine State. Junta soldiers abducted hundreds of villagers, and held women and children captive, denying them food and water and raping them. Over 80 homes and a monastery were burned down. On 4 June, the junta launched a coordinated ground, air, and naval attack on Singaung Village in Thandwe Township, Rakhine State, killing dozens of people. Extreme violence and atrocities are set to continue in Rakhine State as the junta and the AA ordered civilians to evacuate their villages before latest clashes between them.

Since February, the junta has further systematically arrestedabducted, and enlisted by force ethnic youth from Rakhine State and refugee camps in Bangladesh to serve as frontline fighters, human shields, human minesweepers, and porters—including forcing them on frontlines to die. Hundreds of Rakhine youth have been arrestedheld incommunicado, and forced to join the Myanmar military. Alongside them, thousands of Rohingya in villages and internment camps in Rakhine State have reportedly been forcibly enlisted or persuaded with offers of potential freedom of movement, money, rice, or national ID cards, to “fight for [their] faith”, or threatened with a humanitarian aid block. On the Bangladesh border, vulnerable Rohingya refugees have been kidnapped from camps and forced into the Myanmar military to fight the AA. Abductions were perpetrated by Rohingya militia groups—the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Arakan Rohingya Army—groups reportedly partnering with the junta and denounced by Rohingya civil society and activists as unrepresentative of their community. Rohingya youth are being relentlessly forcibly recruited by the Myanmar military, the perpetrators of genocide against them.

In particular, the junta’s instigation of anti-AA protests and coercion of Rohingya recruits to participate in burning down Rakhine homes compound the plight of the Rohingya community. The acute vulnerability of the Rohingya continues to be systematically exploited by the Myanmar military and other armed groups to exacerbate inter-ethnic and religious conflict between the Rakhine and Rohingya communities, two major ethnic minorities in Rakhine State.

In addition, during times of heightened tension, hate speech against the Rohingya—including the use of terms such as “Bengali terrorists” and “Muslim terrorists”—and the portrayal of all Rohingya as collaborators of the junta have been rampant in statements by organizations, media, and individuals. Such sweeping descriptions of an entire ethnic group and their most predominant religion exacerbate ethno-religious conflict, and escalate public hatred against a severely persecuted ethnic minority of Myanmar.

Excellencies, the international community bears responsibility for the continuation of mass atrocities—massacres, torture, airstrikes, artillery shelling, sexual violence and other gross international crimes—against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities by the military junta, the main perpetrator, in Rakhine State and across Myanmar. After nearly one and a half years since the UNSC’s adoption of Resolution 2669, the junta has continued to massacre civilians. In the first four months of 2024 alone, the junta committed 46 massacres, killing 369 people. Furthermore, despite the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution calling on all states to refrain from the export, sale, or transfer of aviation fuel to Myanmar, UN Member States continue to supply the junta with aviation fuel, enabling them to carry out more airstrikes and other aerial attacks across Myanmar, exacerbating immense human suffering and mass displacement during the grave humanitarian crisis.

To uphold its mandate for international peace and security, the UNSC must convene an emergency meeting and coordinate an immediate intervention to protect civilians and stop the horrific violence against the Rohingya and ethnic minorities in Rakhine State and across Myanmar. Once again, we call on the UNSC to urgently adopt a new resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that imposes targeted economic sanctions and a comprehensive arms embargo against the junta, including a complete ban on all sales, transfers, and diversions of aviation fuel to Myanmar. This resolution must also refer the crisis in Myanmar to the ICC or create a criminal tribunal on Myanmar without delay.

Rohingya, Rakhine, and other ethnic minorities in Rakhine State and across Myanmar will continue to suffer unless and until ongoing crimes are halted by the UNSC’s immediate intervention.

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Signed by 89 civil society organizations, including eight organizations that have chosen not to disclose their names due to the junta’s continued violence in Myanmar.

Click here to see the full list of signatories.

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