Since late 2017, the Myanmar government has cleared at least 55 villages of all structures and vegetation using heavy machinery.
RANGOON (UNA-OIC) -– New satellite imagery revealed that the Myanmar government has been bulldozing scores of depopulated Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
The United Nations Security Council, the UN and its agencies, and Myanmar’s donors should demand the government of Myanmar to immediately halt the demolition of Rohingya villages, which should be treated as crime scenes that should be preserved until the UN Fact-Finding Mission is given access to the area to carry out investigations, HRW said in a statement.
Since late 2017, the Myanmar government has cleared at least 55 villages of all structures and vegetation using heavy machinery. Most of these villages were among the 362 villages completely or partially destroyed by arson since August 25, during the security forces’ ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya. However, the satellite images showed that at least two of the villages demolished were previously undamaged by fire and likely inhabitable.
Hundreds of buildings have been demolished in 10 other villages partially destroyed by arson.
“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, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Bulldozing these areas threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there.”
Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye was quoted by AFP on February 12 as stating that the bulldozing of villages was part of a plan to rebuild villages to a higher standard. He said that the government was “trying to have the new village plan,” and that “when [the refugees] come back they can live in their place of origin or nearest to their place of origin.”
Following militant attacks on security posts last August, Myanmar’s military forces launched crackdown campaigns, during which they committed widespread killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and mass arson in hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine state, forcing nearly 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
Any bulldozing of villages that has destroyed evidence of crimes is apparent obstruction of justice. The Myanmar government has failed to credibly investigate serious alleged abuses committed by security forces since August 25, which HRW has found, amount to crimes against humanity.