Myanmar military behind torching of Rohingya villages: HRW
Human Rights Watch says evidence shows Myanmar’s military is behind the torching of villages belonging to persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, urging the government to allow aid agencies and media into the troubled region.
On Tuesday, the New York-based rights body released Satellite imagery and interviews with witnesses, saying at least 1,500 buildings have been destroyed since October 2015 in Rakhine, home to a large number of Rohingya Muslims.
“The new findings refute the Myanmarese military and government’s claims that Rohingya militants were responsible for burning down their own villages,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the rights group.
“The satellite imagery and eyewitness interviews clearly point the finger at the military for setting these buildings ablaze,” he added.
The statement further said that the exact number of burnt houses could be higher as dense jungles in the region might have concealed some destroyed buildings, adding that the pattern of burnings suggests a “systematic building destruction” had been on Naypyidaw’s agenda.
“It’s difficult to believe that militants burned down over 300 buildings” in just one particular area over a one-month time span “while Myanmarese security forces stood there and watched,” Adams noted, adding, “Myanmarese government officials have been caught out by this satellite imagery, and it’s time they recognize their continued denials lack credibility.”
On Monday, AFP cited an unnamed diplomat as saying that Myanmar had called for an emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to find a solution for the Rohingya Muslims crisis.
Last week the United Nations’ special adviser on Myanmar slammed Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her handling of the crisis, which had “caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has already denounced Suu Kyi for allowing “genocide” under her administration.
Rakhine has also been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from homes and live in squalid camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The minority has been particularly under a military lockdown since an alleged attack on the country’s border guards on October 9, which left nine police officers dead. The government accused the Rohingya of being behind the assault. There have been reports of rape, murder, and arson against the Muslim population in the state.
Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, many believe the Rohingya are a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.
On Thursday, the UN called on Suu Kyi to take action to end the brutal military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine, urging her to reassure civilians they will be protected by the government amid allegations that soldiers have raped Rohingya Muslim women, burnt houses and killed civilians.
The bloody crackdown on the Muslims by the military has now prompted an international outcry, posing the biggest challenge to Suu Kyi since her National League for Democracy party won elections last year.