Burma's Rakhine state is being militarized at an alarming pace, as authorities build security force bases on lands where Rohingya villages were burned to the ground just months ago, Amnesty International said in a new report March 12. Through witness testimony and analysis of satellite images, Remaking Rakhine State documents how the bulldozing of Rohingya villages and new construction have intensified since January in areas where hundreds of thousands fled the military's campaign of ethnic cleansing last year. "What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale. New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya," said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director. "This makes the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees an even more distant prospect."
The chief UN official investigating human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, on March 12 called for an immediate investigation into "clearance operations" in Rakhine state, stating she is increasingly convinced that actions by the Burmese security forces amount to genocide. Satellite imagery shows that at least 319 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire after the current military campaign began on Aug. 25, 2017, ostensibly in response to attacks on security forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Said Lee: "We have hundreds of eyewitness accounts. We have seen unsettling photographs and satellite images of Rohingya villages flattened to the ground by bulldozers, erasing all remaining traces of the life and community that once was." (Jurist, March 12)
Burma's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been stripped of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's prestigious Elie Wiesel Award for "failing to halt or even acknowledge the ethnic cleansing" in her country. (NYT, March 7)
Photo: VOA via Wikimedia Commons