Despite Suu Kyi’s claims, army still burning Muslim villages: Amnesty

Press TV- Amnesty International says Myanmar’s military and vigilante Buddhist mobs continue to set fire to Rohingya Muslim villages in Rakhine State, contradicting claims by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi that army operations have ended there.

In a report on Friday, Amnesty said newly-captured satellite images and videos from the troubled state show smoke rising from Muslim-populated villages, providing further evidence that challenges Suu Kyi’s claims.

Officials in Myanmar appear set to make sure the Rohingya Muslims who fled the violence in their villages will “have no home to return to,” the report said.

“This damning evidence from the ground and from space flies in the face of Aung San Suu Kyi’s assertions to the world that what she called military ‘clearance operations’ in Rakhine State ended on 5 September,” said Tirana Hasan, the director of Crisis Response  at Amnesty.

The report added, “Rohingya homes and villages continue to burn, before, during and after their inhabitants take flight in terror. Not satisfied with simply forcing Rohingya from their homes, authorities seem intent on ensuring they have no homes to return to.”

On August 25, the Myanmar military used a series of attacks on police and army posts in Rakhine as a pretext to unleash yet another deadly clampdown on the Muslim minority there. The violence has forced nearly 430,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

According to numerous reports by rights groups and witnesses, Myanmar military forces, along with majority Buddhists, have been randomly shooting at Muslims and raping them. They have also been setting fire to Muslim villages and planting landmines on the path of those fleeing.

Under international pressure, Suu Kyi finally broke her silence on Tuesday only to justify the brutal army crackdown against Rohingya Muslims.

Despite all the reports and eyewitness accounts, Suu Kyi said she did not know why the Muslims were fleeing. She refused to single out the military in the crackdown and only condemned “all human rights violations” in Rakhine.

She even refused to refer to the persecuted Muslims by their name Rohingya, pointing to her government’s official position of not recognizing them as nationals.

Suu Kyi’s comments sparked even more international criticisms, with Amnesty saying Myanmar’s leader and government are “burying their heads in sand” in the face of the reports on the military’s brutalities, which the UN and may rights groups have branded as an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Muslims.

On the Bangladeshi side on the border, most of the Rohingya refugees have arrived in the already overcrowded camps in the Cox’s Bazar town, where they are suffering from starvation and have no access to clean water.

“The situation in the camps is so incredibly fragile, especially with regard to shelter, food and water, and sanitation, that one small event could lead to an outbreak that may be the tipping point between a crisis and a catastrophe,” emergency coordinator of the medical relief agency Doctors without Borders, Robert Onus, said in a statement.

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in an extremely precarious situation, and all the preconditions for a public health disaster are there,” added the statement, calling for a “massive step-up of humanitarian aid.”

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect rice bags distributed by aid workers near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, September 22, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Additionally, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which has censured Myanmar’s use of anti-personnel mines along its border with Bangladesh, said the Rohingya refugees are risking their lives to cross the border into Bangladesh.

“According to eyewitness accounts, photographic evidence, and multiple reports, antipersonnel mines have been laid between Myanmar’s two major land crossings with Bangladesh, resulting in casualties among Rohingya refugees fleeing government attacks on their homes,” the ICBL said in the statement on Friday.

It demanded that Myanmar immediately cease using such weapons and accede to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which 162 other nations are parties.

Earlier reports by Amnesty and Bangladeshi officials had said the mines planted by government forces have caused many refugees to sustain serious wounds or lose their body organs.