Myanmar Officials Respond to Rights Group’s Report on Bulldozed Rohingya Villages

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A handout aerial photograph taken on Feb. 9, 2018, allegedly shows bulldozed Rohingya villages in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.
A handout aerial photograph taken on Feb. 9, 2018, allegedly shows bulldozed Rohingya villages in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.

An international rights group on Friday issued new satellite images showing the Myanmar government's demolition of dozens of deserted Rohingya Muslim villages in northern Rakhine state in recent months, charges that Myanmar officials insist was part of reconstruction work.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing the images, said the government used heavy machinery to clear all structures and vegetation in at least 55 villages, most of which were among 362 villages completely or partially destroyed by arson during a military crackdown on the persecuted group that began in late August.

The satellite images indicate that at least two of the demolished villages were previously undamaged by fire and likely inhabitable, while hundreds of structures have been torn down in 10 other villages partially destroyed by fire, HRW said.

The group said it could not independently verify if any of the destroyed villages were inhabited when the demolition began, though the imagery suggests that the demolitions are ongoing.

HRW called on the United Nations Security Council, U.N. agencies, and international donors to demand that the government stop destroying the villages “which should be treated as crime scenes” until a U.N.-appointed fact-finding commission is allowed into the region to conduct an investigation.

“Many of these villages were scenes of atrocities against Rohingya and should be preserved so that the experts appointed by the U.N. to document these abuses can properly evaluate the evidence to identify those responsible,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, in a statement. “Bulldozing these areas threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there.”

Myanmar security forces began attacking Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine after a militant Muslim group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out deadly assaults on police outposts on Aug. 25.

The brutal campaign, which refugees and rights groups say included indiscriminate killings, rape, and arson, forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in what the international community has said amounts to ethnic cleansing, if not genocide.

The Myanmar government has denied accusations of atrocities committed by the army and prevented a U.N. commission from entering the region to investigate reports of abuses and killings. Independent reporting or fact finding in the area by reporters or forensic experts has not been permitted.

A handout satellite image taken by DigitalGlobe on Feb. 19, 2018, and released by Human Rights Watch on Feb. 23, 2018, allegedly shows the ongoing demolition of Rohingya villages in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State.
A handout satellite image taken by DigitalGlobe on Feb. 19, 2018, and released by Human Rights Watch on Feb. 23, 2018, allegedly shows the ongoing demolition of Rohingya villages in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State. Credit: AFP/DigitalGlobe via Human Rights Watch
Reconstruction efforts

The HRW report comes as Myanmar and Bangladesh are preparing to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to northern Rakhine, where the government has said it has built houses in more than 20 villages to accommodate the returnees.

Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s minister of social welfare minister, earlier told Agence France-Presse that the demolition was part of a plan to rebuild the villages to a higher standard than before.

On Friday, he told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the demolitions reported by HRW are part of the region's overall reconstruction plan for for returning refugees.

“For their resettlement, we have to work on a village plan to replace the [old structures] by clearing burned houses in order to build new ones,” he said. “The roads will also be widened, and we will install lampposts as well. We already announced that we will provide electricity for the entire Maungdaw [township] region by the end of 2018."

“With the refugees returning, we have to build houses, schools, religious buildings, markets, and government offices according to a township plan,” Win Myat Aye said. “Because we are implementing this plan according to [the United Nations Human Settlements Programme’s] guidelines, we need to clear the burned buildings. This is the process for both villages and township plans. What HRW said must refer to these clearings, but we must clear the areas to implement the plan.”

In accordance with an agreement with Bangladesh, Myanmar has already built two refugee processing facilities and a transit camp where returning Rohingya must stay for several days before they can be transferred to their previous places of residence, he said.

In response to HRW’s report, Maung Ohn, a Rakhine state lawmaker who represents Maungdaw township where new structures for returning refugees are being built, also said the demolitions are part of the project to build new houses for refugees.

“I’ve heard that authorities are working on the resettlement projects for the refugees who are returning homes,” he told RFA. “Because their villages were burned down, the authorities have to clear them to build new buildings for the people who are returning.”

Rights groups and the U.N. have warned against a hasty return of the refugees, saying that they will continue to face repression and discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are denied citizenship and access to basic services.

“Conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, during a U.N. Security Council briefing on the situation in Myanmar on Feb. 13. “The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship.”

EU prepares sanctions

Meanwhile, the European Union is preparing to impose sanctions on Myanmar army generals and diplomats over the crackdown on the Rohingya.

Ministers are expected on Monday to ask Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, to put together a list of senior Myanmar military officials to sanction for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses, Reuters reported Thursday.

Though the EU has had an arms embargo on Myanmar since the 1990s, new sanctions in the form of visa bans and asset freezes would be the bloc’s toughest measures on the country to date, the report said.

The U.S. and Canada have already imposed sanctions on Myanmar military officers, including Major General Maung Maung Soe, head of the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, who led the military’s brutal crackdown on the Rohingya.

Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (1)

Sai Cliff Lin Kan

HRW has never commented positively about Buddhist Burma. HRW is spreading hatred against Buddhist Burma. The Islamic terrorist group the ARSA has burnt down the Bengali villages and Buddhist villages, for to blame Buddhist Rakhine villagers and Burmese security force.
The Burmese Government’s cleaning land those burnt down villages for to rebuild homes for returnees Bengali villagers from Bangladesh. The Government is no cleaning the cemetery area where the AP and the UN had accused Burmese Army for massacred Bengalis and buried in five graves.
Do HRW and the UN have any evidence about genocide committed by Burmese Army?
There I found the story title with a GU Dar Pyin massacre in Wikipedia and other media reporting the AP reporter has uncovered 5 mass graves of Rohingya in GU Dar Pyin village. The story was distributed by the AP as well as based on Ms. Yanghee Lee interviews with a Bengali man in the Refugee Camp. However, the GU Dar Pyin Village’s Head and the villagers said that has never occurred in their Village.

Only a few incidents have happened in Rakhine state but the Military and Government have taken action against anyone who committed crime.
There are many made up stories in the Refugee Camps for to get asylum in Western Countries and money from reporters. The reporters, HRW, NGO and the UNHCR staffs are encouraging refugees to lie and tell fabricated story about how they escape from Buddhists and Burmese soldiers.
The foreign reporters failed to report about 30 Buddhist families have fled to Burma from Chittagong Hill Tracts and 20 families were caught and arrested by Bangladeshi Police and only 10 families successful escaped to Rakhine State. The Buddhists have fled to Rakhine State, Burma because of threatening their lives by the Bengali settlers and Bangladeshi soldiers. Also, the Buddhist Marmar (Myanmar) sisters 18 and 13 were gang raped by a group of Bangladeshi soldiers on 22nd January in their home in Chittagong Hill Tracts and the sisters were serious injured and treated at Rangamati General Hospital. No foreign reporters have reported such as news because of the victims was Buddhist. They reporters will inflate the story if the victims were Muslims.
Where’s the fairness? Something is going on here. The Buddhists have lost voice because they journalists, the UN and NGOs organizations like HRW have deliberately discriminated against Buddhists.
Phil Robertson (HRW) is only looking for opportunities to promote negative images of Buddhist Burma and Burmese Government.
I was wondering about why Phil Roberson was so anti-Buddhists and pro-Muslims activist regardless of his official title.
The UNHCR, the OIC and organizations like the HRW are trying to stop Bengali Muslims go back to Burma and the wanted to create the UN monitor a Safe Zone for illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims in northern Rakhine State.

I want to let him (Phil Robertson) know, we Buddhists are not evils or murderers, but the Bengali Muslims are an aggressive one and the Bengali Muslim men kidnapped, raped and killed Buddhist ethnic women and men far before 2012 communal riot in Rakhine State, Burma. Only a few crimes committed by Bengali Muslims were caught and most of the criminals were getting away with their crimes because they fled to Bangladesh.

Also, armed Bengali Muslim groups used to rob Buddhist farmers’ paddy crop when the crop was ready to harvest. The Buddhist paddy farmers were so afraid to confront the Bengali Muslims crop raiders. Also the Burmese Police did not protect them because the Police do not have enough Police officers. The Bengali Muslims do not care about Police even the Police officers come. The Bengali Muslims are majority in Northern Rakhine State and the population of 1.2 million as HRW said. Bengali men and women go back to Bangladesh and married and brought back their spouses to Rakhine state and they become Rohingya. The Bengali Muslim population is exploding like Popcorn in the pan.
Former Burmese Governments and Junta have failed to secure the border with Bangladesh and also, the corrupt immigration officers have contributed in illegal immigrant Bengali peoples moved to township like Buthitaung and Maungdaw Township. The Bengali Muslim is not minority in northern Rakhine state.

HRW failed to denounce the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA was obviously HRW is supporting the ARSA’s terrorist activity as the OIC did. I do not blame Buddhist Burmese peoples opposing and distrusting against the HRW in Burma.

Also the Burmese Military and Burmese Government must practice more transparency and allow foreign journalists to travel to Rakhine State and other ethnic minority States to collect news regardless of media manipulation by foreign journalists. The Military must allow the Journalists go to collect information they need to report. If the Government was worried about media manipulation and then send the Government’s officer with Video recorder and record everything on the journalist’s interviewing with local peoples. If the journalist has reported misinformations about what they actually interview peoples and then releases its own Video for to rebut journalist fraudulence report.
The Burmese Government and Buddhist Burmese peoples do not need to care and anger about what HRW tireless hounding against Buddhist Burma. Burmese Government has more important thing to do for peace and reconciliation with Burmese ethnic minority peoples.
The HRW, the UN and foreign journalist spreading misinformation about Rakhine State is creating hatred between Buddhist ethnics and illegal immigrants Bengali Muslims in Rakhine State and across Burma. They will never win over Burma and Buddhist Burmese by spreading misinformation and rumors.
The Rakhine crisis is very sad and very unfortunate incident created by the OIC, the ARSA, the UN and NGOs and journalists. Many families have lost their love one and also, they lost homes. Some illegal settler Bengali Muslims will never able to come back.
The sanction against Burma won’t work and will only create more hatred and divide between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma.
The sanction base on fabricated story and false allegation reported by the AP and the UN OHCHR against the Burmese Military and individual sanction against senior Military officers will make them hero and popular at home. Nothing will gain from that.
The sanction against Burma won’t work and will only create more hatred and divide between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma.

Feb 24, 2018 12:16 PM





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