UN report details strategy of shootings, rape
As a seven-year-old girl lay bleeding from a bullet fired by Myanmar security forces that had surrounded her home, her 12year-old sister tried desperately to help her get up and escape.
“They shot my sister in front of me,” the 12-year-old Rohingya refugee told UN researchers from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from a wretched camp across the border in Bangladesh last month.
“She cried and told me to run. I tried to protect her and care for her, but we had no medical assistance on the hillside and she was bleeding so much that after one day she died. I buried her myself.”
The account is one of 65 in a damning new UN report that concludes recent attacks on Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State were “well-organised, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes”.
A 25-year-old woman describes how her family ran to nearby hills to escape a “massacre” by security forces backed by a Buddhist mob in their Buthidaung township, and had to watch silently from behind trees as four soldiers gang-raped her sister. “They raped her in front of us as we were hiding behind the trees. She was crying but my father could not help her, as we had to be quiet so they did not notice us. She was bleeding for many days,” the woman said. Her sister has received medical care in Bangladesh “but her dignity is destroyed”.
Critically, the UN report found the latest military clearance operations in Myanmar, which have forced more than half a million Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh, began up to three weeks before the August 25 attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants.
The militants say they launched attacks to end attempts to “starve out” Rohingya civilians.
Last month the High Commis- sioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned that the situation in Rakhine State appeared to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Yesterday he reinforced that allegation, calling for an end to Myanmar’s “cruel” security operation, in a statement that also denounced Myanmar’s denial of political, civil, economic and cultural rights to Rohingya civilians as “a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return”.
The Myanmar government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has refused to allow UN fact-finding missions into northern Rakhine State. Instead, the accounts were gathered by UN researchers in Bangladesh refugee camps.
The OHCHR report alleges a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma — physical, emotional and psychological” among the Rohingya population.
In some cases, before and during the attacks, megaphones were used to announce: “You do not belong here — go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.”
Almost all testimonies indicated people were shot at close range and in the back as they fled.
Accounts cited in the report suggest Myanmar security forces have no intention of allowing any returns and are destroying livestock, food stores, houses, fields and even trees — anything that might attract Rohingya back to their villages. Satellite images has reveal 288 villages have been burnt since late August.
The report said anti-personnel mines were “deliberately planted by the Myanmar security forces after 23 August 2017 along the border in an attempt to prevent the Rohingya refugees from returning to Myanmar”.
UN researchers also cite information indicating “Myanmar security forces targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge”.
Fleeing Rohingya cross a rice field on their way to safety