YANGON, Myanmar – The European Union condemned on Thursday an escalation in violence in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state that has led to the displacement of around 4,500 people.
The EU delegation to Myanmar in a statement urged a halt in clashes between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army, an armed group that seeks more autonomy for western Rakhine state’s Buddhist-majority population, and called for dialogue to resolve the conflict, which has escalated since December.
“We call for restraint and urge all sides to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians,” the statement said, while condemning attacks by the Buddhist rebels against four police stations on Jan. 4, in which 13 officers were killed and nine others injured.
On Dec. 21, the Myanmar army had declared a ceasefire in the entire country except Rakhine, and a fresh offensive was launched in the state on Monday to crack down on the Buddhist rebels.
The EU praised the government’s unilateral ceasefire and hoped it would be expanded to Rakhine and extended beyond its four-month duration.
“This could create the necessary momentum to put an end to decades of conflict, and finally achieve a nation-wide peace agreement,” the statement said.
The Arakan Army is among one of the many armed groups active in Myanmar.
Rakhine is also home to the much-persecuted Rohingyas, a mostly-Muslim minority community, who are not considered citizens by Myanmar.
More than 723,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017, following a military offensive that has been condemned globally for its human rights abuses.