UN re­port de­tails strat­egy of shoot­ings, rape

The Australian - - WORLD - AMANDA HODGE SOUTH­EAST ASIA COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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”.

GETTY IM­AGES

Flee­ing Ro­hingya cross a rice field on their way to safety

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