Myanmar military accused of fresh war crimes in Rakhine

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A Myanmar soldier stands on guard in Rakhine state in 2018Image source, AFP
Image caption,
More than 30,000 mainly Buddhist civilians have been displaced in the latest fighting

Myanmar's army is committing fresh war crimes against ethnic groups in Rakhine state, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

In a new report, Amnesty accuses the army of carrying out extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests amid an operation against an ethnic Buddhist guerrilla force.

The army has denied the allegations.

Soldiers were previously accused of mass human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine in 2017.

More than 70,000 people fled the country as a result of the crackdown on the ethnic minority group.

The military launched new operations in the area this year, after being instructed by the government to "crush" the Arakan Army rebels.

The western state is home to a number of ethnic groups of which the Buddhist Rakhine is the biggest.

"Less than two years since the world outrage over the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya population, the Myanmar military is again committing horrific abuses against ethnic groups in Rakhine state," Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty's regional director for East and South-East Asia, said in a statement.

"The new operations in Rakhine state show an unrepentant, unreformed and unaccountable military terrorising civilians and committing widespread violations as a deliberate tactic."

The human rights group made the allegations after speaking to dozens of people living in areas affected by the conflict and analysing photographs, videos and satellite imagery.

The report documents seven unlawful attacks that killed 14 civilians and injured at least 29 more. It also details incidents of torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests.

The military admitted last month to killing six unarmed detainees, saying it did so because they tried to grab the soldiers' weapons.

But army spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun denied Amnesty's allegations.

He told AFP news agency that the military acted within the law and "avoided harming civilians".

"This was an operation to clear terrorists. We were careful not to commit any war crimes," he said.

The Arakan Army was also accused by Amnesty of committing "abuses against civilians", including abductions, though on a smaller scale.

A spokesman for the group denied the claims, telling AFP: "I can firmly say it does not happen."

More than 30,000 mainly Buddhist civilians have been displaced in the latest fighting between national forces and rebels.