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UN accuses Myanmar army of torture against rebels

UN accuses Myanmar army of torture against rebels
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Serious human rights abuses are still being committed in Myanmar despite democratic reforms and progress in resolving conflicts with ethnic groups, according to the United Nations.

Its envoy visited a refugee camp in the northern Kachin state, where fighting escalated late last year and the Burmese military used air strikes against rebels.

Tomas Ojea Quintana took the authorities to task at the end of his five-day mission.

‘‘I am concerned about the ongoing practice of arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military, of Kachin men accused of belonging to the Kachin independence army,” he said during a news conference at Yangon airport.

The envoy also said ethnic violence between Muslims and Buddhists in the western Rakhine state threatened to undermine the entire reform process.

Medical staff were unable to reach refugees in some Rohingya Muslim camps because of threats and harassment from Buddhist communities, he added.

Quintana said 120,000 people were now living in camps, describing one as being “more like a prison”. Although conditions had improved since his last visit in August, health care was still described as inadequate.

Muslims and Buddhists remained divided by fear, distrust, anger and hatred, according to the UN envoy.

The Burmese government considers the Muslim Rohingyas to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which also denies them citizenship.

Quintana called on the government to change laws to end discrimination against the Rohingyas.