Rohingya villages erased, replaced by army bases in Rakhine State

Laverne Higgins
March 12, 2018

Myanmar is bulldozing villages and building security bases in Rakhine state, many of them on sites where Rohingya families once lived, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Through eyewitness testimony and expert analysis of satellite images, Remaking Rakhine State reveals how flattening of Rohingya villages and new construction have intensified since January in areas where hundreds of thousands fled the military's campaign of ethnic cleansing previous year.

"The military is not only building security force bases and roads but also bulldozing everything including houses, trees, landmarks and even graveyards", said Mohammad Ali, a Rohingya resident of Buthidaung town in northern Rakhine. Analysts say the build-up amounts to a land grab.

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.

New construction has begun, in the form of security bases and infrastructure, or villages meant for non-Rohingya people.

Amnesty International's latest research reveals how whole villages of burned Rohingya houses have been bulldosed since January.

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.

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The UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour last week said that "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya was continuing in Rakhine State through a "campaign of terror and forced starvation" intending to drive the remaining Rohingya population into Bangladesh.

The reports underscores fears that Myanmar could be setting the land aside for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other non-Muslim groups, or that it hopes to erase any evidence of the alleged atrocities that occurred during the crackdown.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border into Bangladesh since last August, clearing forests and camping on hillsides already crowded with more than 300,000 refugees from previous waves of migration.

The influx of Rohingya created an emergency humanitarian crisis in south-eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox's Bazar where the refugees are sheltered in squalid camps.

The formal repatriation was supposed to begin on January 23, two months after the signing of the instrument. However, many refugees are reluctant to return home without the guarantees concerning their rights and safety.

Zaw Htay, a government spokesman, rejected the claims, and said the government was not basing military forces in residential areas but that police stations were part of village construction plans.

"It's not true that the army is building bases in the region", he said.

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