STAND UK’s Weekly News Briefs are compiled weekly by members of the STAND UK Education Task Force.
This week’s update focuses on Burma and South Sudan. In Burma, the authorities have responded to statements made concerning human rights abuses towards Rohingya Muslims, however no action has yet been taken. Meanwhile in South Sudan, calls for an independent investigation into human rights abuses have been made.
A statement by State Counsellor Aung San Kyi’s office was released on Wednesday 15th February, claiming that the ‘clearance operations’ undertaken by the military in the northern Rakhine state have ceased. It is thought that this statement was in response to the UN report issued a few weeks ago, which condemned the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in the state.
The National Security Advisor Thaung Tun said that this move proved that the government ‘are ready to act when there is clear evidence of abuses’. However, the continuation of a ‘police presence’ in the region has raised some concerns. It was claimed that this was in the interest of maintaining peace, although it could potentially be used to further abuses. Moreover, the refugees residing in Bangladesh remain in danger, hoping one day to be able to return to their homes. They were accused by the Bangladeshi Prime Minister of being terrorists, meaning that this is also not a safe refuge for the Rohingya Muslim population.
There were further resignations this week, as South Sudanese military officers accused the government of corruption and ethnic bias in favour of the Dinka tribesmen. Key positions such as the head of the military courts and the minister of labour are now empty as the government seeks a replacement. These previous supporters of the regime have turned to the rebel leader Riek Machar, pledging allegiance to him instead, in the belief that he will support all ethnic backgrounds.
Also, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, undertook a four-day visit to the state. He concluded that the only way to end the conflict would be for ‘the perpetrators [to] face consequences for what they are doing’. Abuses of human rights were documented, including rape of women by government forces as well as non-government militias. This is contrary to the rhetoric issued by the SPLA division commander, who claims that no such attacks occur in the region. Calls were also made for an independent mechanism to investigate human rights abuses in the country, as evidence provided by the government is often disputed.
Sophie Burke is part of the STAND UK’s Education Taskforce and her areas of expertise are Burma and South Sudan. She is an undergraduate studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Cambridge and loves to travel.