Report accuses Myanmar of using ‘scorched earth’ tactics
A report released by Amnesty International suggests that the crisis in Myanmar has been made worse by military and vigilante mobs burning down the houses of the minority Rohingya group.
Amnesty’s field team detected that since Aug. 25 at least 80 large fires were deliberately ignited in inhabited areas across northern Rakhine state. Victim testimony and satellite sensors have confirmed the finding, Amnesty said.
Laura Haigh, an Amnesty researcher, said on Friday that field research found that none of the areas occupied by other ethnic groups were hit by fires. The area effected by what Amnesty calls a “scorched earth” strategy reportedly totals 3,300 square kilometers. The claim was supported by satellite images of the village tract of Inn Din, a mixed ethnic community in south Maungdaw that showed how an area of Rohingya homes had been burned to the ground, while other areas appear to have been left untouched.
The rights group believes that the true number of fires and the extent of property destruction is likely to be much greater as the cloud cover during the monsoon season has made it difficult for satellites to see everything.
“During the period [since Aug. 25], there was no attempt to set fires in places other than the ones inhabited by Rohingya,” Haigh told reporters in Jakarta through a video call from Bangkok.
The humanitarian crisis in Rakhine reached another low on Aug. 25 as militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army made coordinated attacks on 30 police posts and an army base. The Myanmar military hit back at the militants in clashes involving hundreds of Rohingya insurgents across northern Rakhine.
In a clash that caused many fatalities on the militants’ side, 12 members of Myanmar’s security forces and several civilians had also reportedly died. Recent data suggest that more than 100 people died during the fighting.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has found herself facing world criticism as she allowed an army operation that has killed more than 400 people and forced almost 400,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh. The United Nations has called on Myanmar to end what it described as “ethnic cleansing.”
Suu Kyi has decided not to take part at the UN General Assembly later this month. Usman Hamid, Amnesty International’s Indonesia director, said that the UN Human Rights Council should issue a strong recommendation to put pressure on Myanmar’s government to put an end to the ongoing crisis during a scheduled meeting in Geneva next week.
“We also hope that the meeting would extend the fact-finding team’s tenure to continue their operation in Myanmar,” he said.
Indonesia has sent 34 tons of food, rice, clean water, clothes and tents to Myanmar. The assistance arrived in Myanmar on Thursday and has reportedly been sent onwards to Rakhine.