Myanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages After Cleansing Campaign

Myanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages After Cleansing CampaignMyanmar Bulldozes Rohingya Villages After Cleansing Campaign

Myanmar has bulldozed at least 55 villages that were emptied of their Rohingya Muslim inhabitants during violence that began last year, Human Rights Watch said on Friday citing a review of new satellite imagery.

The group said the demolitions in the northern part of Rakhine State could have destroyed evidence of atrocities by troops who swept through villages after Rohingya insurgents allegedly attacked some police posts and an army base on Aug. 25, Reuters reported.

The military response to the August attacks pushed 688,000 people across the border into Bangladesh, many of them recounting killings, rape and arson by Myanmar soldiers and police.

The United Nations and the United States have called the crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic cleansing, but the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has blocked UN investigators and other independent monitors from the conflict zone.

Human Rights Watch said a total of 362 villages had been partially or completely destroyed since August. Since late last year, some of those villages had been flattened, it said.

“Many of these villages were scenes of atrocities against Rohingya and should be preserved so that the experts appointed by the UN to document these abuses can properly evaluate the evidence to identify those responsible,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director.

 “Bulldozing these areas threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there.”

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar daily reported that Myanmar, Japan and seven UN agencies had struck a deal on help for Rakhine State worth $20 million.

The United Nations suspended its activities in northern Rakhine and evacuated non-critical staff after the government suggested it had supported Rohingya insurgents last year.

Neither the state-run newspaper nor the United Nations specified what proportion of projects would be implemented in the northern part of the state where the Red Cross has been providing limited assistance.

Knut Ostby, the interim UN coordinator for Myanmar, said in a release the immediate concern was to provide humanitarian aid to people in need, “irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, gender or citizenship status”.

“More than 40% of people in Rakhine live in poverty and we have to reach them with development assistance in order to set the state on the path to peace and inclusive growth,” he said.

UN projects aim to reach half a million beneficiaries over the next year, the United Nations said in a statement, though adding that humanitarian access remained restricted.


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