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Rohingya may face ‘death penalty’ over Myanmar murders

Hundreds of innocent Rohingya civilians are arbitrarily arrested since October 9, 2016

By Kyaw Ye Lynn / Anadolu Agency‎

74 suspects held on remand face several charges under Counter-Terrorism Laws and Penal Code, which carry the death penalty

YANGON, Myanmar : A total of 113 people have now been arrested for alleged involvement in last month’s attacks in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, some of whom could face the death penalty.

Nine border police officials were killed and dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were stolen Oct. 9. when around 400 armed men attacked three police station outposts in Maungdaw and Yathay Taung Townships.

Myanmar troops have since been searching Muslim villages — the area is predominantly occupied by the country’s stateless Rohingya population — for the assailants and stolen weapons.

On Saturday, Min Aung, a spokesperson for Rakhine’s regional government, told Anadolu Agency that troops had arrested 113 suspects during the area clearance operations.

“39 of them have been released after being found to have had no role in the attacks,” he said, and 74 suspects have been held on remand.

“They are now under interrogation.”

According to a police official in Yangon, the suspects face several charges under Counter-Terrorism Laws and the country’s Penal Code.

“They probably face the death penalty,” said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to media.

Although some sections of Myanmar’s penal code carry the death penalty, in most recent cases it has been commuted to a life sentence.

The military’s ongoing clearance operations have generated reports of widespread abuse.

In the past week, top diplomats and a United Nations official who visited the area called on the government for a credible and independent probe into the fatal attacks, along with allegations that Myanmar soldiers subsequently killed and raped Rohingya women.

On Friday, U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Renata Lok-Dessallien told a press briefing in commercial capital Yangon that a probe independent of political pressure was needed.

“We are not there to investigate,” she said of a the UN-led 10-member delegation, which has been visiting Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships — the two areas under military lockdown since the attacks.

“The visit is just the first step towards broader access. For a clear picture of the situation in the area, we urge the government to launch credible and independent investigations into the attacks and consequences.”

Lok-Dessallien added that authorities had assured that aid would resume in the townships in “one or two days”.