30,000 displaced by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine: UN

Myanmar soldiers put out a fire in Wapeik village located in Maungdaw in Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border on Nov. 13, after attackers allegedly set fire to 80 houses. (AFP Photo / Myanmar Armed Forces)
Updated 18 November 2016

30,000 displaced by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine: UN

YANGON, Myanmar: Up to 30,000 people have been displaced by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, half of them over the course of last weekend when dozens of people died in clashes with the military, the UN said Friday.
Troops have poured into a strip of land along the Bangladesh border, an area which is largely home to the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority, since coordinated attacks on police posts last month.
The army this week said troops have killed nearly 70 people as they hunt the attackers, although activists say the number could be much higher.
Violence escalated over the weekend, with state media reporting troops had killed more than 30 people in two days of fighting after the army responded to ambushes by bringing in helicopter gunships.
The UN’s special rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, criticized the government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for their handling of the crisis and called for “urgent action.”
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 15,000 people were believed to have fled their homes over the space of 48 hours.
“Up to 30,000 people are now estimated to be displaced and thousands more affected by the 9 October armed attacks and subsequent security operations across the north of Rakhine State,” said a spokesman for the UN OCHA.
“This includes as many as 15,000 people who, according to unverified information, may have been displaced after clashes between armed actors and the military on 12-13 November.”
Activists have accused troops of killing civilians, raping women and torching homes — allegations the government has vehemently denied.
Authorities have heavily restricted access to the area, making it difficult to independently verify government reports or accusations of army abuse.
A delegation of UN officials and foreign diplomats made a brief trip to the area in an effort to get aid deliveries reinstated, which state media has hailed as proof no abuses had been carried out.
The resurgence of violence in western Rakhine state has deepened a crisis that already posed a critical challenge to Suu Kyi’s administration seven months after it took power.
More than 100 people died in 2012 in clashes between the majority Buddhist population and the Muslim Rohingya, and tens of thousands of them were driven into displacement camps.
The UN’s Lee slammed the government’s handling of the crisis, and urged a transparent investigation into accusations of rape and murder by the security forces.
“State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has recently stated that the government is responding to the situation based on the rule of law. Yet I am unaware of any efforts on the part of the government to look into the allegations of human rights violations,” Lee said in a statement.
“The security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smokescreen of having allowed access to an international delegation. Urgent action is needed to bring resolution to the situation.”


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.