DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:30 AM) – The military forces of Myanmar, together with extremist Buddhist vigilante lynch mobs, are still actively persecuting the Rohingya minority in the state of Rakhine, a report by Amnesty International states. The report is in direct contradiction to claims by Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi that army operations have ended in the province.
On Friday, Amnesty issued its findings based on satellite images and videos from Myanmar. According to the organisation, the evidence shows smoke rising from burning Rohingya villages. The burning of villages, many of which were already abandoned earlier, is done in an apparent attempt by the army to ensure Rohingya refugees have no home to return to.
“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 International.
The latest military crackdown on the Rohingya, an ethnic minority that consists mostly out of Muslims, in Myanmar started on August 25, when the authorities used a series of attacks on police and army bases as a pretext for a brutal and merciless campaign against the entire minority in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Nearly 430,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled the country since, most of them to Bangladesh.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar (a position comparable to that of prime minister), originally refused to give any statement about what was happening in Rakhine. Under international pressure, she finally broke her silence on Tuesday, only to issue a justification of the army’s actions, to the disappointment of many.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former opposition leader Suu Kyi stated that she did not know why Rakhine Muslims were fleeing the country in droves, and refused to even name or admit the atrocities committed by her armies. To make matters even more controversial, she refused to use the term “Rohingyas” in her speech. The 1982 Nationality Law, which is still in effect today, stipulates that the Rohingya are not considered citizens of Myanmar and as such have no civil rights in the nation. According to the ruling, that Suu Kyi seems to accept, the Rohingya are considered Bengalis and are illegal squatters in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi’s remarks sparked a wave of protest and criticism worldwide, particularly from Islamic nations. The United Nations branded the anti-Rohingya campaign as a case of ethnic cleansing, and Turkish president Erdogan even called it a campaign of outright genocide. Nations like Iran have already started sending tons of humanitarian aid to Bangladesh to support the refugees, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling on all Islamic countries to exert political pressure on the Myanmar regime.
Despite Suu Kyi’s claim that the military crackdown already ended on September 5, the recent findings by Amnesty say otherwise. Even worse, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) claims that the military is deploying minefields in order to kill Rohingyas who are trying to flee the country.
“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.
Even after arrival in Bangladesh, the situation of the Rohingya remains extremely precarious. “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 (…) Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in an extremely precarious situation, and all the preconditions for a public health disaster are there,” emergency coordinator of the medical relief agency Doctors without Borders, Robert Onus, said in a statement.