The European Union has urged the Myanmar government to address the underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine State involving Rohingya Muslims.
The call came in the wake of the recent escalation of violence in the region along the Bangladesh border.
In a statement, a spokesperson of the 28-countries EU also welcomed the announcement by the Myanmar government of the establishment of a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ into the recent violence.
“It must be objective in its findings and that should help prevent similar events in the future, by ensuring accountability for all perpetrators of violence and hatred,” read the statement.
“It remains vital that the Government implements its initiatives by addressing the underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine State.”
In the violent attacks against Border Guard Police posts in northern Rakhine State on Oct 9 and the ensuing security operations both civilians and security personnel were killed, and thousands of people were displaced and lost their livelihoods.
Regular humanitarian assistance has been disrupted for many weeks, putting at risk over 150,000 vulnerable people.
Reports indicate a marked deterioration of the human rights situation in northern Rakhine State.
The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, in meetings with the State Counsellor and the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces on Nov 22-23, reiterated the call for the immediate resumption of humanitarian activities and the setting up of an independent and credible investigation into both the attacks and the subsequent actions.
“As long as there is no access to the area, including by independent observers and the media, allegations and suspicions about the perpetration of severe human rights violations will continue,” the EU said in the statement.
The limited re-opening of humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State, following reassurances by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of government, is a step in the right direction, it said.
“We look forward to the swift improvement in access so that life-saving assistance can quickly and effectively reach all those in need.”
Fear, the loss of livelihoods and shelter, and reported disproportionate use of force by the armed forces push many, particularly women and children, to seek refuge in Bangladesh.
“While recognising the long-standing solidarity and hospitality of the Government and the people of Bangladesh, it is important that those fleeing violence in Myanmar are not deported or turned back,” the EU said.
“By providing assistance and protection to them until the situation in northern Rakhine State has stabilised and their safe return can be ensured, the Bangladeshi authorities will continue to contribute to stability in the region.
“Peace and national reconciliation in Myanmar remain critical.”
The escalating fighting in Kachin and northern Shan States over the recent months has resulted in casualties and the internal displacement of several thousand civilians.
Humanitarian access to the conflict-affected areas has also been restricted, preventing aid from reaching affected communities. Continued fighting undermines trust and confidence in the peace process.
The EU said the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement by eight ethnic armed groups and the holding of the “Union Peace Conference 21st Century Panglong” were important milestones on the path towards national reconciliation.
Work must now focus on improving the inclusiveness of the process, including the participation of all armed groups, of women and of civil society,” it said. The European Union stands ready “to explore further assistance in this context.”