Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Myanmar's military accused of "land grab' in Rakhine State"

Myanmar's military accused of

After driving almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country, Myanmar's military is building bases where some of their homes and mosques once stood, Amnesty International said on Monday, citing new evidence from satellite imagery.

(COMBO) This handout image of a satellite photograph released by Amnesty International and DigitalGlobe on March 12, 2018 shows new structures and fencing built over the previously burnt village of Kan Kya in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

"What we are seeing in Rakhine state is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale", Amnesty's Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan said in a statement. Amnesty believes they are part of a new base for security forces.

Rakhine State remains among the poorest in Burma (Myanmar) and the government of Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to invest in rebuilding the region after "clearing operations" by the Tatmadaw army devastated scores of Rohingya villages, leaving them deserted.

Amnesty International claims Myanmar's authorities are erasing evidence of crimes against humanity.

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Myanmar and Bangladesh reached a deal in November to repatriate those who fled. "No one wants to stay because they are afraid of more violence against them".

Spokesperson Colm O'Gorman says it makes it even more hard for refugees to return home. "Not only are their homes gone, but the new construction is entrenching the already dehumanising discrimination they have faced in Myanmar".

Although the violence in Rakhine State has subsided, the campaign to drive Rohingya out of their homeland - and ensure they can not return - continues but has taken on new forms.

Researchers also found signs that whole villages have been bulldozed since January, potentially destroying vital evidence from last August's violence.

The rights group is accusing the authorities of taking over areas Rohingya Muslims are meant to return to.

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In February, Human Rights Watch raised similar concerns, saying satellite imagery it had analysed showed at least 55 Rohingya villages had been cleared since late 2017.

Amnesty International says its images show the reception centres, which have been built to house returning Rohingya, are surrounded by security fences and close to areas with a heavy military presence.

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.

Rakhine state has been largely sealed off from rights groups, the media and United Nations investigators.

Amnesty said the developments in Rakhine were likely to signal further persecution when the Rohingya refugees return. The authorities can not be allowed to continue their campaign of ethnic cleansing in the name of "development".

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