UN ‘alarmed’ by reports of civilian casualties in Myanmar air attacks

Continuing air raids in the restive country’s Rakhine state are reported to have killed dozens.

Rakhine State, Myanmar map

The United Nations chief has expressed “alarm” at reports that the Myanmar military is bombing civilian areas.

Antonio Guterres called for calm late on Monday following reports that continuing air attacks on villages in the restive country’s Rakhine state have killed dozens.

Clashes have rocked the western state since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since the military’s 2021 coup. Residents told AFP more than 20 people have been killed.

Guterres is “alarmed by reports of ongoing air strikes by the military, including today in Minbya township that reportedly killed and injured many civilians,” Farhan Haq, the UN chief’s deputy spokesperson, said.

“The expansion of conflict in Rakhine State is driving displacement and exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities and discrimination,” he said. “The secretary general calls on all parties to prevent further incitement of communal tensions.”

Minbya township lies east of the state capital of Sittwe, which has been all but cut off by AA fighters in recent weeks.

The air raid hit the village of Thar Dar, a predominantly Rohingya village about 5km (3 miles) north of Minbya, early on Monday, killing 10 men, four women and 10 children, one resident said.

“There was no fighting in our village and they bombed us,” he said, asking for anonymity for security reasons.

Another resident, also asking for anonymity, said 23 people had been killed in the blast and 18 wounded.

With most mobile networks down, communication with the riverine region is extremely difficult.

Muslim Rohingya have faced persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades and nearly a million of them live in crammed camps in neighbouring Bangladesh’s border district of Cox’s Bazar. Most fled a military crackdown in 2017.

Myanmar’s military rulers view the Rohingya as foreign interlopers and have denied them citizenship.

Government troops hold Sittwe, but in recent weeks AA fighters have made gains in surrounding districts.

Fighting has also spilled over into neighbouring India and Bangladesh.

Last month, at least two people were killed in Bangladesh after mortar shells fired from Myanmar during clashes landed across the border.

The AA is one of several armed ethnic minority groups in Myanmar’s border regions, many of whom have battled the military over autonomy and control of lucrative resources since independence from Britain in 1948.

Source: News Agencies