Monday, 19 March, 2018

As Rohingyas perish in camps, Myanmar govt builds helipads on their land

Who’s calling the shots for the Rohingya people Rohingya refugees 'face further persecution' as Burma builds military bases on burned villages
Melissa Porter | 12 March, 2018, 14:50

Through eyewitness testimony and expert analysis of satellite images, Remaking Rakhine State reveals how flattening of Rohingya villages and new construction have intensified since January in areas where hundreds of thousands fled the military's campaign of ethnic cleansing a year ago.

New eyewitness testimony and expert analysis of satellite images gathered by Amnesty in a 26-page report Remaking Rakhine State reveal how Rohingya villages have been flattened and new military construction undertaken since January in areas where hundreds of thousands fled a campaign of ethnic cleansing past year.

"The new evidence and the rebuilding that Amnesty has documented in our latest research shows that the Myanmar authorities are building over the top of the very places the Rohingya need to return to", Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director, told AFP ahead of the report's release on Monday. Analysts say the build-up amounts to a land grab.

New construction has begun, in the form of security bases and infrastructure, or villages meant for non-Rohingya people.

Amnesty's findings also reflect a recent Human Rights Watch report which showed at least 55 Rohingya villages had been cleared of all structures and vegetation since late 2017.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed last November to begin repatriating Rohingya who volunteer to return to Rakhine state, where the persecuted Muslim minority have lived for generations.

Entire villages were burned to the ground past year as Burmese forces swept through Rakhine, killing and raping in a campaign the United Nations human rights chief called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Food, shelter and healthcare remain pressing needs for the Rohingya, who have fled a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine state en masse over the past six months.

UNITED Nations officials said today almost US$1 billion (RM4 billion) is needed this year to feed and care for the roughly one million Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps in southeastern Bangladesh. Amnesty said that authorities were also destroying villages not burnt but "deserted by inhabitants fleeing killings, starvation and the threat of further violence". However, many refugees are reluctant to return home without the guarantees concerning their rights and safety.

The largest of the new bases is in the village of Ah Lel Chaung in Buthidaung Township, where eyewitnesses said the military forcibly evicted Rohingya from certain areas to make way for construction.

Satellite imagery revealed that new security bases have been erected over torched Rohingya land, said Amnesty International on Monday. "There are only police posts for regional security and law enforcement reasons".