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New fires still torching Rohingya villages: Amnesty

23 September 2017,Saturday, 10:22



Amnesty International has assessed three new videos taken inside Rakhine State as recently as Friday afternoon showing large plumes of smoke rising from Rohingya villages, one of which was already deserted, as well as satellite imagery with smoke visible over burnt-out structures.

Local sources in northern Rakhine State claim the fires were started by members of the Myanmar security forces and local vigilante mobs, reports Amnesty International.

“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 September 5,” said Tirana Hasan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

“Almost three weeks later, we can see in real time how there is no let-up in the campaign of violence against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State. 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.

Not satisfied with simply forcing Rohingya from their homes, authorities seem intent on ensuring they have no homes to return to.

“The time has come and gone for giving Myanmar’s military and political leadership the benefit of the doubt. The international community must be unequivocal in its condemnation and take effective action to halt this ethnic cleansing campaign as well as bring the perpetrators to account.”

One video, taken on September 21 near the village of Hpar Wat Chaung village, northern Maungdaw township, shows agricultural land in the foreground with a large plume of smoke rising from a settlement located amid a group of trees.

A local resident told Amnesty International that Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) and vigilante groups started the fires in the early afternoon, and that there were further burning operations that same evening.

Amnesty International reviewed satellite imagery of Hpar Wat Chaung from September 16 to 22. Smoke is still visible in the later image, which clearly showed the village had been set ablaze and structures standing just days earlier had been burnt to the ground.

Additionally, satellite sensors detected a recent active fire in the village, further corroborating the incident.

Two more videos, taken from different angles reportedly outside Nga Yant Chaung village in Buthidaung township, show the village in flames on Friday afternoon.

Activists, including a source in Rakhine State itself, have told Amnesty International that the burning began between 1:30 pm and 2:00 pm local time.

 

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