“There are some children that are detained in the Buthidaung prison, so those are the cases that we’re raising,” Justin Forsyth, the United National Children’s Fund – UNICEF – deputy executive director, said at the end of a brief trip to Myanmar on April 9.
“Any child that’s detained is an issue for us,” add more the UNICEF deputy executive director.
The UNICEF deputy executive director made the plea to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi after detailing the plight of around a dozen minors being held in the Buthidaung prison and called for the release of the Rohingya children detained by Myanmar’s government as part of a heavy-handed crackdown on the Rohingya minority group in Rakhine State.
“The reality is if you don’t address these issues, particularly for Rohingya communities, then it will come back to haunt them, which is partly what has happened,” Forsyth said.
Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s army chief both recognized “that there’s an issue here” but made no firm commitment for their release, he added.
Recently, a UN report that compiled interviews with 220 of the estimated 75,000 Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh since October, said Burma’s security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.
There have been numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks against Rohingya since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone.
UN rights envoy for Myanmar Yanghee Lee said some 450 people were being held in Buthidaung prison when she visited in January, most without access to lawyers or their families.
The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to send a mission to Myanmar to probe allegations that troops and police raped, killed and tortured Rohingya in their months-long campaign.
But, Myanmar has rejected the accounts collected by UN investigators in the Bangladesh refugee camps, who said the crimes could amount to ethnic cleansing.
“I don’t think there’s ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.” Suu Kyi said in an interview with the BBC last week.
Speaking to the BBC’s special correspondent Fergal Keane on April 5, Suu Kyi said, “I’m just a politician. I’m not quite like Margaret Thatcher… but on the other hand, I’m no Mother Teresa either.