Myanmar alarm as UN human rights reports deadly helicopter attack on civilians
Clashes between the Myanmar military and armed separatists that reportedly involved a deadly helicopter bombing raid on civilians in Rakhine state earlier this week, have been condemned by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
The conflict between the Myanmar military – who are known as the Tatmadaw -and the Arakan Army, dates back around a decade.
In the latest violence, sources say that two military helicopters flew over a village in Buthidaung Township in Rakhine state, firing on Rohingya Muslims who were tending cows and their paddy fields.
Speaking in Geneva, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that the attacks may constitute war crimes:
“These particular killings we have been able to verify with some certainty. This is why we’re putting it out there: that there was a helicopter attack, that bombs were dropped and that these seven civilians were killed.”
The mainly Buddhist Arakan Army was formed almost a decade ago in response to economic and social injustice grievances.
These are distinct from the systematic discrimination and violence suffered by Rohingya Muslims that forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in the summer of 2017.
OCHA alert on spike in civilian killings and displacement in Niger
To Niger now, where there’s been a spike of violence and displacement against civilians, that’s been largely attributed to armed extremists including Boko Haram.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinating arm, OCHA, warned on Friday that more than 80 people were killed last month alone, in the Diffa region of south-eastern Niger that borders Nigeria and Chad.
That compares to a total of 107 killed in the whole of 2018, and aid teams are concerned that armed groups are now targeting the most vulnerable people in the region, including already internally displaced people – known as IDPs - and refugees.
Here’s OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke:
“One may understand why armed groups of their sort fight each other, but why they seem to increasingly attack civilians to the point where we now have 88 civilian deaths in one month alone, that is unclear… We try to respond to the needs of those who survive, when they are displaced, who are hosted in many instances by host communities who are already hosting more than 100,000 IDPs.”
To help people fleeing the violence, OCHA and partners have distributed food and water for thousands of people as well as shelter kits, non-food items and psycho-social support.
Increase in Ebola virus in DRC highlights daily challenges for response teams
And finally to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, where there’s been a marked increase in the number of Ebola cases in the past week.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the outbreak in the troubled far north-east of the country, has recorded more than 170 new infections.
The increase in cases highlights the difficult environment health responders have to work in every day, WHO says, in reference to pockets of community mistrust and the threat of violence from more than 100 armed groups in the region.
In total, there have been 1,100 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola since the outbreak started last August, of which 690 people died.
Women account for nearly six in 10 patients, while children make up almost three in 10, WHO says, while the number of healthcare workers who have contracted the virus has also risen to 81, including 27 deaths.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.