Myanmar 'militarizing' burnt Rohingya villages

Myanmar 'militarizing' burnt Rohingya villages

A harsh security response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on August 25 sent members of the mostly stateless minority fleeing to Bangladesh and saw more than 350 villages destroyed by fire in western Myanmar's Rakhine state.

In a new brief entitled "Remaking Rakhine State", Amnesty analysts found that new military bases, helipads and road networks were being constructed on top of villages that were destroyed during the military's scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago that the USA and United Nations have called ethnic cleansing. Amnesty believes they are part of a new base for security forces.

Reuters reported last October that Burmese officials were planning to sell thousands of acres left behind by Rohingya and would resettle returnees in "model villages" rather than their original homes.

Satellite imagery of one village called Kan Kya on the outskirts of Rakhine's Maungdaw town taken two months after the August attacks shows a settlement scarred by fire.

Burma's government has pledged to accept back the Rohingya who fled, and it has been constructing shelters, including dozens at a large transit camp in northern Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border.

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The military killed women, men, and children, committed rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls and systematically burned hundreds of villages, clearly committing crimes against humanity. "Not only are their homes gone, but the new construction is entrenching the already dehumanizing discrimination they have faced in Myanmar".

The report also highlights concerns that abandoned Rohingya land will be set aside for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other non-Muslim groups in the area, and that alterations to the landscape will erase evidence of alleged atrocities by the military.

"It's not true that we are deploying the military among houses and among villages", he said, adding that bulldozing is necessary to work on burned land. "Myanmar's authorities are erasing evidence of crimes against humanity, making any future attempts to hold those responsible to account extremely hard", said Tirana Hassan.

Amnesty International says its images show the reception centres, which have been built to house returning Rohingya, are surrounded by security fences and close to areas with a heavy military presence.

"This makes the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees an even more distant prospect", said Hassan.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees at the end of January, but Dhaka suspended it at the last minute.

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