Myanmar is razing Rohingya homes and building security bases, says Amnesty International

Myanmar is razing Rohingya homes and building security bases, says Amnesty International

Since August 2017, the Buddhist-majority nation has reportedly driven almost 700,000 members of the besieged community into neighboring Bangladesh, as part of a wildly indiscriminate military crackdown the global community has called ethnic cleansing.

"What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale", Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director, said in a statement, adding how the new construction makes the much-debated return of Rohingya refugees even more impossible.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border into Bangladesh since last August, clearing forests and camping on hillsides already crowded with more than 300,000 refugees from previous waves of migration.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago that the USA and United Nations have called ethnic cleansing.

The wave of the Rohingya exodus began after an assault by an insurgent group of this minority on security forces on August 25, 2017, which provoked the Myanmar military to launch a brutal crackdown against them through all kinds of abuses, including executions, rapes and burning of houses.

Burma's government has pledged to accept back the Rohingya who fled, and it has been constructing shelters, including dozens at a large transit camp in northern Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border. Amnesty has accused Burma of crimes against humanity. "Not only are their homes gone, but the new construction is entrenching the already dehumanising discrimination they have faced in Myanmar". The landscape has become "virtually unrecognisable" in many areas, the report said.

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"The bulldozing of entire villages is incredibly worrying", said Ms Hassan. "Myanmar's authorities are erasing evidence of crimes against humanity, making any future attempts to hold those responsible to account extremely hard", said Tirana Hassan.

The operation has raised concerns among rights groups that the authorities are destroying evidence of crimes against the Rohingya, which could hinder future investigations.

Citing photographs and satellite imagery, a report by Amnesty found that authorities were razing burnt remains of Rohingya villages, demolishing surviving buildings and clearing trees and other vegetation.

Eyewitnesses also told Amnesty International how non-Rohingya people were living in new villages that have been built on burned Rohingya homes and farmland over the past months.

Though admitting the images only paint a partial picture, the rights group says structures for security forces, helipads and even roads have been built in and around torched Rohingya properties.

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