Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | ePaper
Landmines deadly for fleeing Rohingyas: HRW
Myanmar security forces have laid landmines during attacks on villages and, along the Bangladesh border, posing a grave risk to Rohingya Muslims fleeing atrocities, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Saturday.
It added that the Myanmar government should immediately stop using antipersonnel landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
"The dangers faced by thousands of Rohingya fleeing atrocities in Burma are deadly enough without adding landmines to the mix," said Meenakshi Ganguly, its South Asia director.
The rights organisation said, "The Burmese military needs to stop using these banned weapons, which kill and maim without distinction." According to witness accounts, independent reporting, and photo and video recordings, Burmese soldiers have in recent weeks laid antipersonnel landmines at key crossing points on Burma's border with Bangladesh.
The Burmese military personnel also planted mines on roads inside northern Rakhine State
prior to their attacks on predominantly Rohingya villages.
The Burmese government has accused the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against infrastructure and security forces.
Two Rohingya refugees from inner areas of Rakhine State, one from Buthidaung and another from Rathedaung township, told HRW they saw the Myanmar military laying antipersonnel mines on roads as the military entered and attacked villagers.
Mohammad, 39, said he saw a neighbour's son step on one of the mines laid by the military. The mine blew his right leg off.
In addition to attacking his village with gunfire and other explosive weapons on the night of August 26, the military emplaced antipersonnel mines on the road in Taung Bazar, Buthidaung.
Mines were placed near the hospital, he said.
On September 4, 2017, a landmine detonated on a path used by many refugees near the hamlets of Taung Pyo Let Yar, about 200 meters from the Bangladesh border.
HRW witnessed smoke arising from the hamlets, suggesting burning by the military that caused villagers to flee. The next day, three Rohingya men were wounded in three separate landmine explosions near the same border point.
Two Rohingya refugees told HRW that men in apparent Burmese military uniforms were seen in the northern part of Taung Pyo Let Yar performing some activity on the ground prior to the September 4 explosions.
One described watching a Burmese military patrol on the road near the border on the morning of September 4.
From a vantage point in so-called no-man's land, he observed several soldiers from the patrol stop at least twice, kneel down on the ground, dig into the ground with a knife, and place a dark item into the earth.
Since late August, Burmese security forces, following a coordinated attack by ARSA militants, have carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing involving mass arson, killing, and other abuses against the Rohingya population, causing the flight of more than 420,000 people to neighboring Bangladesh.
HRW has called on members of the United Nations Security Council to hold a public meeting and adopt a resolution that condemns the Burmese military's ethnic cleansing campaign and threatens to impose further measures, including targeted sanctions on military leaders and an arms embargo.
The landmine monitor reported that Myanmar security forces have consistently used antipersonnel mines in numerous locations along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since 1999, but this use had been abating in recent years.
"Placing landmines in the path of fleeing refugees and on roads where families are likely to travel is heartless beyond words," said the South Asia director.
Ganguly said, "The Myanmar government should immediately end its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya population, and also immediately clear landmines in northern Rakhine State."
In addition to mine-laying on the border, Human Rights Watch received credible accounts from two Rohingya who described the use of antipersonnel landmines on roads in Buthidaung township after August 25, just before the military started attacking villages, hindering flight from the villages.
Rahim, 52, described soldiers arriving by foot and in trucks to Chut Pyin, Rathedaung, in the early morning of August 25. He said that the soldiers were working in teams and placed landmines on the road outside his large, mud-walled house.
"When they are coming, some are in four-man teams, some in 10-man teams, and some were sitting, digging, and putting mines in the roads," he said.
He said they only laid mines in the roads, which prevented villagers from using the roads as they fled heavy gunfire and other attacks by the military.