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."
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour on March 6 said that the "ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues," after a four-day visit to Bangladesh. During his visit, he focused on the situation of thousands of refugees who have fled from Burma (Myanmar). Recently-arrived Rohingya gave credible accounts of continued violence against their people, including killings, rape, and forced starvation, Gilmour reported. Burma has been saying that it is ready to receive returning Rohingya refugees, but Gilmour maintains that safe returns are impossible under current conditions.
Bangladesh and Burma agreed Jan. 16 to complete the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees within two years. According to a statement by the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the repatriation will be completed within two years from commencement. Under the agreement, Bangladesh will establish five camps. They will then move the Rohingya from these camps to two reception centers established on Burma's side of the border. Burma will then shelter the Rohingya in temporary accommodations while rebuilding houses for them. Humanitarian organizations are warning that this time frame is insufficient to guarantee a safe and voluntary return. A representative of the UN Refugee Agency said the Rohingya should voluntarily return only when they feel that it is safe to do so. (Jurist)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein raised the possibility that Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi could face international genocide charges over the military campaign targeting the country's Rohingya Muslim people. "For obvious reasons, if you're planning to commit genocide you don't commit it to paper and you don't provide instructions," he told BBC News Dec. 18. "The thresholds for proof are high. But it wouldn't surprise me in the future if a court were to make such a finding on the basis of what we see." He emphasized that he spoke to her by telephone after his office published a report in February documenting atrocities committed during an escalation of violence that began in October 2016. "I appealed to her to bring these military operations to an end. I appealed to her emotional standing... to do whatever she could to bring this to a close, and to my great regret it did not seem to happen."
With stateside media focused on the unprecedented flooding and cascading industrial disasters from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the far great deluges that have struck three countries in South Asia are going largely unreported. The death toll is estimated at 1,200 after weeks of unusually strong monsoon rains affecting India, Bangladesh and Nepal. According to the Red Cross, 14 million people have been affected by flooding in India; more than seven million in Bangladesh, and 1.5 million in Nepal. The United Nations puts the total number of those impacted by floods and landslides at a total nearly double that, of 41 million.
Satellite data released by Human Rights Watch shows widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas of Burma's Rakhine state, following a new military offensive targeting the country's Rohingya people. Burmese authorities say some 100 have been killed since Aug. 25, when supposed militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched pre-dawn raids on police outposts. The army has responded with a massive operation to encircle the Rohingya rebels and block their escape into Bangladesh. But troops are accused of putting whole villages to the torch and carrying out extrajudicial killings. More than 8,700 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since since the offensive was launched, but at least 4,000 more are stranded in the no man's land between the two countries near Taung Bro village. Temporary shelters now fill a narrow strip between the Naf River and Burma's border fence.
The Rohingya Muslim people of Burma are facing what some have called genocide in their homeland, long denied citizenship rights and now under attack by both the official security forces and Buddhist-chauvinist militias, who have carried out massacres and burned down their villages. Some 500,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh—where they are not being welcomed. Already confined to squalid refugee camps near the Burmese border, they now face forcible relocation to an uninhabited offshore island. Shunted from one region to another, they are targeted by the predictable propaganda—Burmese authorities have stigmatized them as Muslim terrorists, and now Bangladesh authorities increasingly stigmatize them as drug-traffickers.
Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected a decision by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of crimes by security forces against the country's minority Rohingya Muslims. The UN body agreed in March to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Burma over claims of systematic murder, rape and torture in Rakhine state. "We do not agree with it," Suu Kyi told a press conference during a visit to Brussels May 2. "We have disassociated ourselves from the resolution because we do not think that the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground." (The Telegraph, May 3; NYT, March 24)