Myanmar military will attack new areas: HRW

Myanmar soldiers arrive to Buthidaung jetty after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army's (ARSA) attacks, at Buthidaung, Myanmar, August 29, 2017. Photo Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today that Myanmar military is targeting new areas in Maungdaw town for destruction.

"Satellite detection of multiple active fires on September 11 and 13 suggest that villages in new areas of Maungdaw town are now being targeted for destruction," it said in a statement.

The Burmese military is deliberately burning ethnic Rohingya villages near the Bangladesh border, HRW said.  

"Such acts of arson, after forcing residents to leave their villages, appear central to the Burmese military's ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma's Rakhine State," it said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery and sensory data showing that 62 villages in northern Rakhine State were targeted by arson attacks between August 25 and September 14, 2017.

It identified 35 of these villages with extensive building destruction from very high resolution satellite imagery, and an additional 26 villages that had active fires detected in near-real time with environmental satellite sensors.

"Our field research backs what the satellite imagery has indicated – that the Burmese military is directly responsible for the mass burning of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director.

"The United Nations and member countries should urgently impose measures on the Burmese government to stop these atrocities and end the forced flight of Rohingya from Burma."

Human Rights Watch conducted a detailed building damage assessment in 6 of the 35 affected villages and identified nearly complete destruction in each case. The total number of destroyed buildings was 948.

On the morning of September 13, Human Rights Watch observed from Bangladesh large plumes of thick, black smoke from the Rohingya border village of Taung Pyo Let Yar in Maungdaw township.

A video confirmed to have been taken from a hill overlooking the village shows several buildings burning in the unoccupied village and two large, dark-colored trucks several hundred meters away.

Village residents stranded at the border described the vehicles as "military trucks" that had previously entered the village. Three villagers who observed the fires from the hill said that the smoke came from fires set in village buildings.

Satellite detection of multiple active fires on September 11 and 13 suggest that villages in new areas of Maungdaw township are now being targeted for destruction. Because of heavy cloud cover, it is almost certain that the actual number of fire-affected villages in the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung is considerably higher.

The Burmese military's operations in northern Rakhine State followed a series of coordinated armed attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 against more than 30 Burmese government police stations and checkpoints, government offices, and an army base.

The Burmese government alleges that Rohingya militants and villagers are responsible for burning buildings in villages across Rakhine State, but has so far failed to provide evidence of this claim, AI said.

"The sightings of Burmese military vehicles and soldiers in a Rohingya village as it goes up in flames fills in some blank spaces of the overwhelming satellite imagery of destruction," Robertson said.

"Concerned governments need to convey the message to Burma's Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other senior commanders that they could be implicated in grave crimes unless they act swiftly to stop the atrocities and hold those responsible to account."



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