A United Nations spokesperson has clarified that a senior UN official who visited northern Arakan State last week did not categorically deny rape allegations made by Rohingya women living in the region, contrary to reports by state media.
Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, explained that remarks made by Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Burma, at a press conference held on 3 November did not constitute a denial of the claims.
Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Dujarric said that “given the nature and scope” of last week’s two-day visit to the region by senior diplomats, “the intent of the delegation was not to look into allegations nor draw full conclusions.”
Burma’s government has consistently denied claims of human rights abuses in the region in the wake of security operations carried out since Rohingya militants attacked border police outposts on 9 October.
Dujarric’s comments appeared to be in response to statements in state media to the effect that the delegation had concluded there was no substance to foreign media reports of rapes allegedly committed by security personnel active in the region.
On Monday, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported that Lok-Dessalion had found “no credible evidence of rapes or human rights abuses by troops”, suggesting that the matter was closed.
However, according to the UN spokesman, Lok-Dessallien had actually called on the government to form “an independent, credible and transparent investigation to look into both the attacks and the subsequent response and allegations.”
Access to the region has been severely restricted, making it almost impossible for journalists to independently confirm reports of abuse, and aid was not resumed until Monday, four weeks after a lockdown was first imposed.
Security forces have killed 33 alleged attackers, while five soldiers and one policeman have been killed since security operations began, according to state-run media.