BANGKOK – The Myanmar army conducted military drills on Friday, a day after it was accused of human rights violations against ethnic minorities, including the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority group, by Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.
Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing oversaw the drills involving the Infantry, Navy and Air Force for the first time in 20 years, in the Ayeyarwady region, to the southwest of Yangon.
Missile launcher vehicles, tankettes, anti-aircraft guns, helicopters and fighter planes took part in the battle simulations, according to photographs released by the military.
Myanmar in November had refused to allow Lee to visit the country, forcing her to inspect camps along the borders with neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Thailand that have been sheltering Burmese refugees, including the Rohingyas.
Nearly 690,000 Rohingyas have fled Rakhine since the Myanmar army launched an offensive in late August, following a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels in the region.
Lee had said eyewitness accounts by the Rohingyas as well as other minorities – such as Shan, Karen and Kachin – tell of various human rights abuses, including killings, torture, rapes and pillaging, by the Myanmar army, who are fighting several insurgent groups in the northeast of the country, including the Kachin Independence Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army of the Kokang minority.
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, including the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kokang, Kayah, Mon, Shan and Wa, which together represent more than 30 percent of the nearly 53 million inhabitants of the country, have been demanding greater autonomy.