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A delegation led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi travelled to Arakan State via Rangoon on Sunday, visiting the troubled region less than a week after security forces there were put on high alert amid a spate of recent killings that the government has blamed on “terrorists.”
“The commissioner arrived in Yangon [Rangoon] on 1 July 2017. He will visit Rakhine [Arakan] State. He will meet with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw,” UNHCR’s Rangoon office stated.
The delegation plans to visit the townships of Sittwe, Mrauk-U, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw and Maungdaw during the visit to Arakan State, where more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have lived since inter-communal violence forced them from their homes in 2012.
Thousands are more recently displaced: Coordinated attacks on three border police posts in northern Arakan State on 9 October killed nine police officers, prompting a security crackdown in the region targeting suspected Muslim militants that has upended life for many members of both Buddhist and Muslim communities in the state’s north.
International attention in the months since has focused on reports of grave human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by security forces against the Rohingya. Nearly 70,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled to Bangladesh since the crackdown began in October.
In recent weeks, however, the government has blamed several murders on “terrorists,” tying the killings to the 9 October attackers’ militant network.
“There has been a worrying increase in the number of murders and disappearances in recent weeks,” read a statement from Burma’s national security adviser dated 1 July. “In the past two weeks alone, six civilians have been killed and two have gone missing or been abducted.”
According to the statement, 38 civilians were killed from October 2016 to 26 June, while an additional 22 went missing or were abducted.
On Sunday, the UNHCR chief Grandi visited the Dapaing IDP camp outside Sittwe, the Arakan State capital.
“The UNHCR [delegation] met with the families of the refugee camp and inquired about their accommodation, food, education and health condition,” according to a report in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Monday.
Grandi’s visit is scheduled to run through 6 July. The high commissioner met with Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu on Sunday and is also due to meet with UN agencies and ambassadors during the trip, his first to Burma since he took the job in January 2016.