Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | ePaper

AI satellite image shows

Rohingya villages still burning

Security forces, locals setting fire

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Staff Reporter :
Amnesty International (AI) has said new satellite images and videos from Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine State show smoke rising from Rohingya Muslim villages, contradicting Aung San Suu Kyi's claims that military operations there have ended.
Local sources in northern Rakhine State claim the Myanmar security forces and local mobs set fire to the villages. The latest violence in Myanmar has sent an estimated 429,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh in less than a month.
The UK-based group said its sources in Rakhine claim the fires - captured in images as recently as Friday afternoon - were started by members of the Myanmar security forces and vigilante mobs.
AI reviewed satellite imagery of Hpar Wat Chaung from 16 to 22 September.
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.
One video, taken on 21 September 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 AI that Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) and frantic groups started the fires in the early afternoon, and that there were further burning operations the same evening.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 AI that the burning began between 1:30pm and 2:00pm local time on that day.
"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, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
Tirana Hasan said 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." "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." On 14 September, AI published irrefutable evidence of a mass-scale scorched-earth campaign across northern Rakhine State, where Myanmar security forces and frantic mobs have been burning down entire Rohingya villages and shooting people at random when they try to flee.  The violence is part of an unlawful and disproportionate response to reported attacks on security posts by a Rohingya armed group on 25 August.
The organization's analysis of active fire-detection data, satellite imagery, photographs and videos from the ground, as well as interviews with dozens of eyewitnesses in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh, show how an orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings has targeted Rohingya villages across northern Rakhine State.
Tens of thousands of other people - including members of Rakhine State's other ethnic minority communities - have also been displaced as a result of the violence.

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