Satellite Data Show Fires Burning in Rakhine State

Satellite Data Show Fires Burning in Rakhine StateSatellite Data Show Fires Burning in Rakhine State

Satellite data accessed by a rights body shows widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, following a military crackdown on the country’s Muslim Rohingya population.

Residents and activists have accused soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks, Al Jazeera reported.

“The Burmese [Myanmar] government should grant access to independent monitors to determine the sources of fires and assess allegations of human rights violations,” the Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday.

HRW said fires have razed 100km of land —an area larger than that burned during a crackdown by the Myanmar military following attacks by Rohingya fighters in October 2016, when data from the group suggested some 1,500 buildings were destroyed.

The locations of the fires correlate with some witness statements and media reports describing blazes deliberately set, the group said.

“This new satellite data should cause concern and prompt action by donors and UN agencies to urge the Burmese government to reveal the extent of ongoing destruction in Rakhine State,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.

“Shuffling all the blame on insurgents doesn’t spare the Burmese government from its international obligations to stop abuses and investigate alleged violations.”

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, “is deeply concerned at the reports of civilians being killed …,” according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Guterres called on Bangladesh to step up assistance to civilians escaping the violence, noting “many of those fleeing are women and children, some of whom are wounded”.

More than 3,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar, where the ethnic Muslim minority faces persecution, in the past three days, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday.

Bangladesh has said there are thousands more Rohingya massed on its border with Myanmar, where it has stepped up patrols and pushed back hundreds of civilians who have tried to enter.

On Monday, Bangladesh detained and forcibly returned at least 90 Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar.

About 87,000 refugees entered Bangladesh in 2016 following the military crackdown.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints