Satel­lite im­ages show Myan­mar Ro­hingya vil­lages torched

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of build­ings in Ro­hingya vil­lages in west­ern Myan­mar have been torched, ac­cord­ing to new satel­lite im­ages re­leased on yes­ter­day as fresh fight­ing flared in the strife-torn re­gion.

North­ern Rakhine, which is home to the Mus­lim Ro­hingya minority and bor­ders Bangladesh, has been un­der mil­i­tary lock­down ever since sur­prise raids on border posts left nine po­lice dead last month. Soldiers have killed sev­eral dozen peo­ple and ar­rested scores in their hunt for the at­tack­ers, who the gov­ern­ment says are rad­i­cal­ized Ro­hingya mil­i­tants with links to over­seas Is­lamists.

Fresh fight­ing flared on Satur­day with two soldiers and six at­tack­ers killed, ac­cord­ing to the mil­i­tary who said they brought in he­li­copter gun­ships to re­pel an am­bush. The cri­sis and reports of grave rights abuses be­ing car­ried out in tan­dem with the se­cu­rity crack­down have piled in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on Myan­mar’s new civil­ian gov­ern­ment and raised ques­tions about its abil­ity to con­trol its mil­i­tary.

Au­thor­i­ties have heav­ily re­stricted ac­cess to the area, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify gov­ern­ment reports or ac­cu­sa­tions of army abuse. New satel­lite im­ages re­leased by Hu­man Rights Watch show what the group said was ev­i­dence of mass ar­son at­tacks against Ro­hingya vil­lages. Their anal­y­sis showed more than 400 build­ings torched in three Ro­hingya vil­lages where the fight­ing has been tak­ing place.

The group said ac­tive fires and burn scars showed that most of the de­struc­tion was caused by ar­son. The lat­est im­ages were taken on 10 Novem­ber. Brad Adams, the group’s Asia di­rec­tor, said the new pho­tos showed “wide­spread de­struc­tion” that was “greater than we first thought”.

“Burmese au­thor­i­ties should promptly es­tab­lish a UN-as­sisted in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a first step to­ward en­sur­ing jus­tice and se­cu­rity for the victims,” he said in a state­ment.

The resur­gence of vi­o­lence in west­ern Rakhine has deep­ened and com­pli­cated a cri­sis that al­ready posed a crit­i­cal chal­lenge to the new ad­min­is­tra­tion led by democ­racy ac­tivist Aung San Suu Kyi. The state has siz­zled with re­li­gious ten­sion ever since waves of vi­o­lence be­tween the ma­jor­ity Bud­dhist pop­u­la­tion and the Mus­lim Ro­hingya left more than 200 dead in 2012.

More than 100,000 peo­ple, mostly Ro­hingya, were pushed into dis­place­ment camps by the blood­shed and have lan­guished there ever since. Rights groups say they face apartheid-like re­stric­tions on move­ment and have re­peat­edly called on Suu Kyi to carve out a so­lu­tion. But Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists at home vi­ciously op­pose any move to grant them cit­i­zen­ship, claim­ing the Ro­hingya are il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh de­spite their long roots in the country.

The mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment have re­jected al­le­ga­tions that troops have burned Ro­hingya vil­lages, ac­cus­ing in­sur­gents of light­ing the fires. On Satur­day evening, Ro­hingya ac­tivists up­loaded a graphic video show­ing the corpses of eight peo­ple dressed in civil­ian clothes, in­clud­ing a small baby.

The video’s shooter, speak­ing in Ro­hingya, said the victims died that day near Dar Gyi Zar vil­lage, with some show­ing bul­let wounds. It was not pos­si­ble to ver­ify the au­then­tic­ity of the footage. —AFP

KARACHI, PAK­ISTAN: In this file photo dated Wed­nes­day, Oct. 14, 2015, Pak­istani ac­tivists protest against the Is­lamic State group. —AP

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