The 1988 Rohingya Extermination Blueprint
Source by: http://www.rohingyablogger.com
Source by: http://www.rohingyablogger.com
KUTUPALONG CAMP, Bangladesh — When the Myanmar military closed in on the village of Pwint Phyu Chaung, everyone had a few seconds to make a choice.
Noor Ankis, 25, chose to remain in her house, where she was told to kneel to be beaten, she said, until soldiers led her to the place where women were raped. Rashida Begum, 22, chose to plunge with her three children into a deep, swift-running creek, only to watch as her baby daughter slipped from her grasp.
Sufayat Ullah, 20, also chose the creek. He stayed in the water for two days and finally emerged to find that soldiers had set his family home on fire, leaving his mother, father and two brothers to asphyxiate inside.
These accounts and others, given over the last few days by refugees who fled Myanmar and are now living in Bangladesh, shed light on the violence that has unfolded in Myanmar in recent months as security forces there carry out a brutal counterinsurgency campaign.
Their stories, though impossible to confirm independently, generally align with reports by human rights organizations that the military entered villages in northern Rakhine State shooting at random, set houses on fire with rocket launchers, and systematically raped girls and women. At least 1,500 homes were razed, according to an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch.
The campaign, which has moved south in recent weeks, seems likely to continue until Myanmar’s government is satisfied that it has fully disarmed the militancy that has arisen among the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group that has been persecuted for decades in majority-Buddhist Myanmar.
“There is a risk that we haven’t seen the worst of this yet,” said Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, a nongovernmental organization focusing on human rights in Southeast Asia. “We’re not sure what the state security forces will do next, but we do know attacks on civilians are continuing.”
A commission appointed by Myanmar’s government last week denied allegations that its military was committing genocide in the villages, which have been closed to Western journalists and human rights investigators. Officials have said Rohingya forces are setting fire to their own houses and have denied most charges of human rights abuses, with the exception of a beating that was captured on video. Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, has been criticized for failing to respond more forcefully to the violence.
The crackdown began after an attack on three border posts in Rakhine State in October, in which nine police officers were killed. The attack is believed to have been carried out by an until-then-unknown armed Rohingya insurgent group.
The military campaign, which the government describes as a “clearing” operation, has largely targeted civilians, human rights groups say. It has sent an estimated 65,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, according to the International Organization for Migration.
“They started coming in like the tide,” said Dudu Miah, a Rohingya refugee who is chairman of the management committee at the Leda refugee camp, near the border with Myanmar. “They were acting crazy. They were a mess. They were saying, ‘They’ve killed my father, they’ve killed my mother, they’ve beaten me up.’ They were in disarray.”
Soldiers were attacking villages just across the Naf River, which separates Myanmar from Bangladesh, so close that Bangladeshis could see columns of smoke rise from burning villages on the other side, said Nazir Ahmed, the imam of a mosque that caters to Rohingyas.
He said it was true that some Rohingya, enraged by years of mistreatment by Myanmar forces, had organized themselves into a crude militant force, but that Myanmar had dramatically exaggerated its proportions and seriousness.
Rohingyas are “frustrated, and they are picking up sticks and making a call to defend themselves,” he said. “Now, if they find a farmer who has a machete at home, they say, ‘You are engaged in terrorism.’”
An analysis released last month by the International Crisis Group took a serious view of the new militant group, which it says is financed and organized by Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia. Further violence, it warned, could accelerate radicalization among the Rohingya, who could become willing instruments of transnational jihadist groups.
In interviews in and around the Kutupalong and Leda refugee camps here, Rohingya who fled Myanmar in recent weeks said that military personnel initially went house to house seeking adult men, and then proceeded to rape women and burn homes. Many new arrivals are from Kyet Yoepin, a village where 245 buildings were destroyed during a two-day sweep in mid-October, according to Human Rights Watch.
Muhammad Shafiq, who is in his mid-20s, said he was at home with his family when he heard gunfire. Soldiers in camouflage banged on the door, then shot at it, he said. When he let them in, he said, “they took the women away, and lined up the men.”
Mr. Shafiq said that when a soldier grabbed his sister’s hand, he lunged at him, fearful the soldier intended to rape her, and was beaten so severely that the soldiers left him for dead. Later, he bolted with one of his children and was grazed by a soldier’s bullet on his elbow. He crawled for an hour on his hands and knees through a rice field, then watched, from a safe vantage point, as troops set fire to what remained of Kyet Yoepin.
“There are no homes left,” he said. “Everything is burned.”
Jannatul Mawa, 25, who is from the same village, said she crawled toward the next village overnight, passing the shadowy forms of dead and wounded neighbors.
“Some were shot, some were killed with a blade,” she said. “Wherever they could find people, they were killing them.”
Dozens more families are from Pwint Phyu Chaung, which was near the site of a clash between militants and soldiers on Nov. 12.
According to Amnesty International, the militants scattered into neighboring villages. When army troops followed them, several hundred men from Pwint Phyu Chaung resisted, using crude weapons like farm implements and knives, the report said. A Myanmar army lieutenant colonel was shot dead, and the troops called in air support from two attack helicopters.
Mumtaz Begum, 40, said she was awakened at dawn when security forces approached the village from both sides and began searching for adult men in each house.
She said she and her daughter were told to kneel down outside their home with their hands over their heads and were beaten with bamboo clubs.
She said her 10-year-old son was shot through the leg, her daughter’s husband was arrested, and her own husband was one of dozens of men and boys in the village who were killed by soldiers armed with guns or machetes that night. Villagers, she said, “laid the bodies down in a line in the mosque and counted them.”
Ms. Begum’s daughter, Noor Ankis, 25, said the next morning soldiers went from house to house looking for young women.
“They grouped the women together and brought them to one place,” she said. “The ones they liked they raped. It was just the girls and the military, no one else was there.”
She said the idea of trying to escape flickered through her head, but she was overcome by fatalism. “I felt there was no point in being alive,” she said.
Ms. Ankis pulled her head scarf low, for a moment, removing a tear. She said she had been thinking about her husband.
“I think about how he took care of me after we got married,” she said. “How will I see him again?”
Sufayat Ullah, 20, a madrasa student, said that he was home with his family on the morning of the attack and that the first thing he registered was the sound of gunfire. He realized quickly, he said, that he could only survive by escaping. “When they found people close by, they attacked them with machetes,” he said. “If they were far away, they shot them.”
Mr. Ullah ran from the house and bolted for the creek at the edge of town, and he dived in, swimming as far as he could. He said he spent much of the next two days underwater, finally scrambling onto the bank near a neighboring village. Only then did he learn that his mother, father and two brothers had burned to death inside the family house.
“I feel no peace,” he said, covering his face with his hands and weeping. “They killed my father and mother. What is left for me in this world?”
Last month, President Obama lifted sanctions against Myanmar, citing “substantial progress in improving human rights” following the historic election victory of the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in November 2015. Tragically, that praise is proving premature.
Hopes that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi would bring an end to the brutal repression of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, lie dashed by a military campaign against the Rohingya in Rakhine State that began after an attack on a police station on Oct. 9. Since then, some 34,000 people have fled over the border to Bangladesh amid allegations of murder and rape by military forces, and satellite images of burned villages. At least 86 people have been killed.
Yet, a commission appointed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi concluded last week that “there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region.” Human rights groups rightly accuse the commission of a whitewash. In an effort to muzzle reporting, Myanmar’s government has barred independent journalists from the region, and dismissed reports of abuses as “fake news” and “fake rape.”
After a disturbing video of police brutally beating Rohingya villagers in November surfaced in late December, the government said “legal action was being taken.” But, as Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski observed, the video suggests such abuses are “normal and allowed.”
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group reports a new militant Rohingya organization with ties to individuals in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was behind an Oct. 9 attack. The group warns that failure by Myanmar to address longstanding grievances by the Rohingya and the indiscriminate military crackdown in Rakhine State risk “generating a spiral of violence.” This is the last thing Myanmar needs.
As the United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said last month, Myanmar’s approach to the crisis is “shortsighted, counterproductive and even callous.” On Monday, the United Nations human rights envoy for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, arrived in the country on a 12-day visit. She will present a report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March. Given the failure of Myanmar’s own commission to conduct a credible investigation, Ms. Lee should call for an independent investigation conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.
Last April, the European Union renewed remaining sanctions on Myanmar on “arms and goods that might be used for internal repression” for one year. The union should renew those sanctions if the government of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi fails to end abuses against the Rohingya. That failure would also warrant new sanctions from the United States.
Source by: https://www.nytimes.com
My colleagues and I recently spent nearly two weeks on the Burma-Bangladesh border interviewing dozens of Rohingya men and women who fled Maungdaw Township in Burma’s Rakhine State. The abuses they suffered at the hands of the Burmese military rise to the level of atrocity crimes. They require an urgent international response.
On Oct. 9, Rohingya militants allegedly attacked three police posts in Maungdaw. The military responded with a brutal “clearance operation,” burning down entire villages and committing abuses against any Rohingya they found.
Survivors described every detail of what they experienced in interviews that lasted hours, even days. We painstakingly confirmed these allegations by separately interviewing eyewitnesses. A picture of systematic atrocities emerged.
Dozens of survivors from several villages reported losing family members. Many witnessed Burmese soldiers killing loved ones, including children. Some had their throats cut, while others were burned alive. Wives, mothers and daughters witnessed soldiers kill husbands, sons and fathers.
Upon the first sight of approaching Burmese soldiers, Rohingya men and boys often fled their homes fearing arrest. Women and children were left behind.
The women I spoke with believed they would be safe if they remained in their homes. They were not.
Burmese soldiers raped Rohingya women, threatened them and their families, and molested them during ostensible body-searches for jewelry and cash. Because of the stigma rape carries in Rohingya society, we believe that the cases reported to us represent only a fraction of the rapes that occurred.
Since Oct. 9, more than 65,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh, according to the United Nations. Many new arrivals are staying with hosts in two official refugee camps, Kutupalong and Nayapura. That puts pressure on families already struggling to survive. Others are hiding in remote locations.
Food, shelter and health care for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are scarce. There is a particular need for medical and psychosocial support for women and girls who survived rape and sexual violence, especially among new arrivals in remote enclave communities who can’t access health options in the two official refugee camps.
The Bangladesh government’s official policy is to deny Rohingya entry. Bangladeshi border guards force Rohingya they catch back to Burma; many refugees managed to enter only after repeated attempts.
None of the survivors we met wanted to leave their homes in Burma—it’s harvesting time. They don’t want to live in Bangladesh, Thailand or Malaysia. Now in Bangladesh, they have nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The Burmese government has repeatedly denied any abuses have taken place. Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of state, appears committed to defending the military at all costs.
Previous military governments persecuted the Rohingya for decades. They have been stateless since 1982, when the country’s citizenship law made them foreigners overnight, despite having lived there for generations. They are denied even the most basic rights, including to marry and to move freely. Following targeted violence in Rakhine State in 2012, the authorities herded more than 120,000 Rohingya into more than 40 internment camps along Burma’s coast, where the government continues to confine them today.
The Rohingya community is resilient. Many survivors want to share their in-depth testimonies and participate in the truth-telling process. But they can’t do it alone. Now is the time for the international community to act.
Malaysia, Indonesia and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation have been outspoken and active recently on the issue of Rohingya in Burma. This is important and positive, but the Rohingya need more than sympathy and solidarity from only Muslim countries.
Last month, a group of prominent world leaders and Nobel laureates called for the U.N. Security Council to initiate an independent investigation into the worsening situation in Rakhine State. The Association for Southeast Asian Nations should pick up the call at the U.N. and help pressure the Burmese government and military to let investigators and aid reach the Rohingya. If this opportunity is missed, the Rohingya will suffer more atrocities.
Ms. Puttanee Kangkun is a Thailand-based researcher with Fortify Rights.
Source by: http://www.wsj.com