Amnesty International has released satellite imagery that shows how the Myanmar government has been pushing ahead with its “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims by burning their villages as part of a “scorched earth” strategy.
The rights groups said in a statement on Thursday that it was in possession of “active fire-detection data, satellite imagery, photographs and videos” that revealed the extent of “a mass-scale scorched-earth campaign” across the country’s northern parts.
“The evidence is irrefutable – the Myanmar security forces are setting northern Rakhine state ablaze in a targeted campaign to push the Rohingya people out of Myanmar. Make no mistake: this is ethnic cleansing,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s crisis response director.
Amnesty said it had detected at least 80 large-scale fires in inhabited areas across Rakhine since August 25, when the government of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi stepped up the violent crackdown.
The organization said it had corroborated the burning by analyzing images from across the Naf River, which separates Myanmar from Bangladesh. The photographs show huge pillars of smoke rising inside the area.
“There is a clear and systematic pattern of abuse here. Security forces surround a village, shoot people fleeing in panic and then torch houses to the ground. In legal terms, these are crimes against humanity – systematic attacks and forcible deportation of civilians,” Hassan said.
According to the statement, Myanmar’s armed forces had even notified people in some Rohingya villages that they were going to burn their homes to the ground.
Eyewitnesses told Amnesty that the soldiers first burned the houses and then randomly shot and stabbed people who were trying to flee.
Calling for international action to address “the nightmare the Rohingya are living through,” Amnesty said Suu Kyi and her military commanders should be put under pressure to end the “carnage.”
The UN Human Rights Council is set to discuss the situation over the next few days, when world leaders gather in New York to attend the annual UN General Assembly.
“This is an opportunity for the world to show that it has grasped the scope of the ongoing crisis and adopt a strong resolution to reflect this. The council must also extend the mandate of the international fact finding mission, which the Myanmar authorities should offer their full cooperation to,” Amnesty said.
Suu Kyi, a Noble laureate, has decided to skip the event.