Amnesty de­cries 'cam­paign of burn­ings' tar­get­ing Ro­hingya

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

GENEVA

-- Amnesty In­ter­na­tional says it has turned up ev­i­dence of an "or­ches­trated cam­paign of sys­tem­atic burn­ings" by Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces tar­get­ing dozens of Ro­hingya vil­lages over the last three weeks.

The hu­man rights group is re­leas­ing a new anal­y­sis of video, satel­lite pho­tos, wit­ness ac­counts and other data that found over 80 sites were torched in Myan­mar's north­ern Rakhine State since an Aug. 25 mil­i­tant at­tack on a border post. The U.N. chil­dren's agency es­ti­mates that as many as 400,000 peo­ple have fled to Bangladesh since then.

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

The satel­lite im­ages, con­tracted by Amnesty from satel­lite providers Deimos and Planet Labs, and other source ma­te­ri­als point to "80 large-scale fires in in­hab­ited ar­eas, each mea­sur­ing at least 375 me­ters (1,230 feet) in length" since Aug. 25, the group said.

The data adds to many ac­counts of vil­lages be­ing burned from refugees who spoke to U.N. 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, in a state­ment.

"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," she said. "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.

Has­san also took is­sue with claims by Myan­mar's gov­ern­ment that the Ro­hingya them­selves were set­ting ablaze their homes.

"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 U.N.-backed, 47-coun­try Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Geneva is ex­pected to take up a dis­cus­sion on Myan­mar on Mon­day.(AP)

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