Mil­i­tary burn­ing Ro­hingya out: Amnesty

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - GENEVA: AP, REUTERS, AFP

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional says it has found ev­i­dence of an “or­ches­trated cam­paign of sys­tem­atic burn­ings” by Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces tar­get­ing dozens of Ro­hingya vil­lages over the past three weeks.

The hu­man rights group re­leased a new anal­y­sis of video, satel­lite pho­tos, wit­ness ac­counts and other data that found more than 80 sites were torched in Myan­mar’s north­ern Rakhine State since an Au­gust 25 mil­i­tant at­tack on a border post. The UN chil­dren’s agency es­ti­mates about 389,000 peo­ple have fled to Bangladesh to es­cape a mil­i­tary of­fen­sive that has been de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing.

Top UN of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res, have pre­vi­ously ex­pressed con­cerns about pos­si­ble “eth­nic cleans­ing” per­pe­trated against the Ro­hingya. But Amnesty’s find­ings, re­leased yes­ter­day in Myan­mar, of­fer some of the most pre­cise ev­i­dence that Ro­hingya ar­eas were specif­i­cally tar­geted.

The satel­lite im­ages, con­tracted by Amnesty from satel­lite pro- viders Deimos and Planet Labs, and other source ma­te­ri­als point to “80 large-scale fires in in­hab­ited ar­eas, each mea­sur­ing at least 375m in length” since Au­gust 25, the group said.

The data adds to many ac­counts of vil­lages be­ing burned from refugees who spoke to UN agen­cies, rights groups and jour­nal­ists in Bangladesh.

“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,” said Ti­rana Has­san, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s cri­sis re­sponse di­rec­tor. “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.”

The In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court says crimes against hu­man­ity in­volve tor­ture, en­slave­ment, mur­der or ex­ter­mi­na­tion of civil­ians in a “wide­spread and sys­tem­atic” way.

Ms Has­san also took is­sue with claims by Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment that the Ro­hingya them­selves were set­ting their homes on fire.

“The gov­ern­ment’s at­tempts to shift the blame to the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion are bla­tant lies,” she said. “Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion makes it crys­tal clear that its own se­cu­rity forces, along with vig­i­lante mobs, are re­spon­si­ble for burn­ing Ro­hingya homes.”

Myan­mar author­i­ties have cur­tailed ac­cess for jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights ex­perts to Rakhine in re­cent months, and Amnesty ac­knowl­edged that the breadth of the dam­age can­not be ver­i­fied on site. It said the full ex­tent of de­struc­tion “is likely to be much higher” than the ev­i­dence com­piled be­cause cloud cover some­times blocked the satel­lite views.

The UN-backed, 47-coun­try Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Geneva is ex­pected to dis­cuss Myan­mar on Mon­day.

Myan­mar in­sisted it was not bar­ring aid work­ers from Rakhine State, where a counter-in­sur­gency cam­paign has sparked an ex­o­dus of Mus­lim Ro­hingya refugees, but said author­i­ties on the ground might re­strict ac­cess for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

“We don’t block any­one,” Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment spokesman Zaw Htay said. “We don’t block any or­gan­i­sa­tions send­ing aid to those ar­eas but they might have some dif­fi­culty trav­el­ling where ac­cess is re­stricted by lo­cal author­i­ties for se­cu­rity rea­sons.”

Bangladesh will use troops to de­liver for­eign aid to the border town that has been over­whelmed by Ro­hingyas refugees, fol­low­ing crit­i­cism of the chaotic con­di­tions in which re­lief sup­plies have been handed out at the huge camps around Cox’s Bazar.

Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina told par­lia­ment late on Thurs­day that the army would han­dle re­lief aid that sev­eral na­tions have sent in re­cent days.

“I have given the army re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure the re­lief goods prop­erly reach them and to over­see what’s in the re­lief ma­te­ri­als,” she said.

Ini­tially, the army will be re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing the aid to Cox’s Bazar.

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