US Holo­caust Mu­seum says ev­i­dence of geno­cide against Ro­hingya in Myan­mar

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Poppy McPher­son in Yan­gon

The United States Holo­caust Mu­seum says there is “mount­ing ev­i­dence” of geno­cide in Myan­mar, af­ter a year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion with South­east Asia rights group For­tify Rights into atroc­i­ties against per­se­cuted Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

The re­port, pub­lished on Wed­nes­day and based on more than 200 in­ter­views with Ro­hingya and aid work­ers, says Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forces car­ried out an “un­prece­dented, wide­spread and sys­tem­atic” cam­paign of vi­o­lence start­ing in Oc­to­ber 2016 and con­tin­u­ing in Au­gust this year.

Close to one mil­lion Ro­hingya have been pushed out of their homes in north­ern Rakhine state into neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh fol­low­ing “co­or­di­nated” at­tacks on vil­lages that in­cluded mass killings, gang-rape and ar­son, the re­port says.

“The crimes de­tailed in this re­port in­di­cate a fail­ure of the gov­ern­ment of Myan­mar as well as the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to prop­erly pro­tect civil­ians from mass atroc­i­ties,” it reads.

The United Na­tions has called the vi­o­lence a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing” but stopped short of the word “geno­cide”, a le­gal def­i­ni­tion that would re­quire global lead­ers to take ac­tion un­der the Geno­cide Con­ven­tion.

Geno­cide is de­fined as the in­ten­tional tar­get­ing of a com­mu­nity for de­struc­tion in whole or in part.

“The facts laid out in this re­port demon­strate that state se­cu­rity forces tar­geted the Ro­hingya group with sev­eral of the enu­mer­ated acts in the law of geno­cide,” the re­port says.

An­drea Git­tle­man, a pro­gram man­ager for the Holo­caust Mu­seum’s Si­mon-Skjodt cen­tre for the pre­ven­tion of geno­cide, said: “The atroc­i­ties oc­cur­ring now de­mand the strong­est of re­sponses in or­der to halt the crimes, pre­vent fu­ture atroc­i­ties, and hold per­pe­tra­tors ac­count­able.”

A Myan­mar gov­ern­ment spokesper­son could not be reached for com­ment on Tues­day, but the gov­ern­ment and army have stren­u­ously de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing Ro­hingya mil­i­tants are re­spon­si­ble for mas­sacres.

Matthew Smith, CEO and founder of For­tify Rights, said the Ro­hingya face an “ex­is­ten­tial threat”, though there had not been a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion on geno­cide.

“It’s rea­son­able to be talk­ing about the crime of geno­cide and geno­cide pre­ven­tion, par­tic­u­larly in light of the ev­i­dence, which in­di­cates the Ro­hingya may have been tar­geted for de­struc­tion,” he said.

“We’re see­ing a global moral fail­ure. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has failed the Ro­hingya. We’ve been warn­ing about the in­di­ca­tors of mass atroc­i­ties for years. Ro­hingya com­mu­ni­ties have been warn­ing about this for years. This could have been pre­vented.”

Tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya fled to Bangladesh last year af­ter Ro­hingya mil­i­tants call­ing them­selves the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army at­tacked po­lice posts, prompt­ing mil­i­tary “clear­ance op­er­a­tions” that amounted to a mas­sive crack­down on the pop­u­la­tion.

When mil­i­tants at­tacked again in Au­gust this year, thou­sands of soldiers from nearly 40 bat­tal­ions were de­ployed, ac­cord­ing to For­tify Rights and the Holo­caust Mu­seum. They moved from vil­lage to vil­lage car­ry­ing out a sim­i­lar pat­tern of mass shoot­ings and ar­son, the re­port said. More than 600,000 Ro­hingya have fled to Bangladesh since Au­gust.

“The large de­ploy­ment of troops, as well as the use of RPGs [rock­et­pro­pelled grenades] would have re­quired de­tailed plan­ning and co­or­di­na­tion and the strate­gic al­lo­ca­tion of sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial re­sources and arms,” the re­port said.

For­tify Rights and the Holo­caust Mu­seum, whose Si­mon-Skjodt cen­tre works to pre­vent geno­cide around the world, sin­gled out three vil­lages as sites of mas­sacres.

In Tula Toli in Maung­daw town­ship, Myan­mar soldiers are ac­cused of slaugh­ter­ing hun­dreds of Ro­hingya, in­clud­ing chil­dren, who were gath­ered on a river bank, and then burn­ing the bod­ies. “Some small chil­dren were thrown into the river,” said a wit­ness quoted in the re­port. “They hacked small chil­dren who were half-alive.”

The al­le­ga­tions are con­sis­tent with re­port­ing by the Guardian and oth­ers.

In Rathedaung town­ship’s Chut Pyin vil­lage, soldiers and armed civil­ians al­legedly herded men and boys into a hut be­fore set­ting it on fire.

At least 150 men and boys from Maung Nu vil­lage, Buthi­daung town­ship, were shot dead af­ter shel­ter­ing in the house of a lo­cal leader, sur­vivors told For­tify Rights.

On Mon­day, the Myan­mar army pub­lished the re­sults of an in­ter­nal probe ex­on­er­at­ing it­self of any wrong­do­ing.

A sim­i­lar in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of mass killings last year found a Myan­mar sol­dier guilty of steal­ing a bi­cy­cle.

For­tify Rights and the Holo­caust Mu­seum are call­ing for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to en­force tar­geted sanc­tions on mil­i­tary com­man­ders and an arms em­bargo on the coun­try, as well as for the United Na­tions se­cu­rity coun­cil to re­fer the sit­u­a­tion to the in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal court.

Ro­hingya Mus­lim chil­dren wait to re­ceive food at Thaingkhali refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. Pho­to­graph: AM Ahad/AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.