Buddhist protesters allegedly threw petrol bombs in an attempt to block aid shipments to Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Burma, amid accusations from the United Nations of military-induced ethnic cleansing in the region.
According to a report from Reuters, hundreds of Buddhist protesters carrying sticks and metal bars threw petrol bombs towards Red Cross workers delivering aid shipments to Rakhine State where insurgent attacks from Rohingya have led to a violent military backlash.
Protesters were eventually dispersed after police began shooting in the air. No aid workers were injured, while eight individuals were arrested.
The current crisis in Myanmar began in August when Rohingya militants attacked local security forces. Since then, over 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh amid a military crackdown that the U.N. human rights chief has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The accusations have attracted international condemnation and raised questions about the commitment of Nobel Prize-winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi to preserving human rights and protection for the Rohingya Muslims, who represent a minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine state.
In a speech on Tuesday, Suu Kyi addressed the nation about the crisis and condemned abuses and said all violators would be punished, adding that she was committed to peace and the rule of law. She also claimed refugees would be able to return to Myanmar after a process of verification.
“There has been much concern around the world with regard to the situation in Rakhine. It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence,” said Suu Kyi from the capital city of Naypyidaw.
However, the speech led to global criticism over her failure to address allegations against the military, claiming there had been “no armed clashes or clearance operations” since September 5.
“Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming,” said Amnesty International Regional Director James Gomez.
“There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing through murder and forced displacement. While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces in this,” said Gomez.
This week, Vice President Mike Pence also called on U.N Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to end the violence in the region.
“Unless this violence is stopped, which justice demands, it will only get worse. And it will sow seeds of hatred and chaos that may well consume the region for generations to come and threaten the peace of us all,” Pence said.