by Gloria Nafziger, Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Canada
by Gloria Nafziger, Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Canada
Reacting to today’s speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto leader, on the crisis in Rakhine State, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:
“Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming.
“There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces in this.
By Olof Blomqvist, Amnesty International
The stories I heard from Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, are haunting. Almost 400,000 people have fled across the border from Myanmar in less than three weeks, and many of them tell you they have seen their family members shot dead or their villages burned to the ground by Myanmar security forces just days before. There is no question that ethnic cleansing is unfolding across the border.
But amid the tales of horror, there is also incredible humanity on display.
As almost 400,000 refugees flee ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, world leaders meeting at the UN General Assembly should hang their heads in shame that they have not only failed to make good on their promises to take in more refugees, but have actively dismantled refugee rights in many parts of the world.
A year on from the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York, where leaders pledged to take in more refugees and help vulnerable people forced to flee their countries, global refugee numbers are increasing year on year as conflicts spiral out of control.
Amnesty International can reveal new evidence pointing to a mass-scale scorched-earth campaign across northern Rakhine State, where Myanmar security forces and vigilante mobs are burning down entire Rohingya villages and shooting people at random as they try to flee.
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, shows how an orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings has targeted Rohingya villages across northern Rakhine State for almost three weeks.
By Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International crisis response director
As you approach the fishing village of Shamlapur, near the long, sloping sand beach of Cox’s Bazar, the sense that something is wrong grows. Tens of thousands of exhausted people step out of ramshackle boats that have carried them across the Naf River after an arduous journey from Myanmar. Weary and traumatized, they seek shelter anywhere they can — in one school I entered, hundreds, about half of them children, had gathered in silence. There wasn’t a cry or a laugh; even the babies were listless and deathly silent.
Follow Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's director of the research and crisis response unit, for live updates from Bangladesh @TiranaHassan.
In recent weeks, around 250,000 Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh, as a result of an unlawful and totally disproportionate military response to attacks by a Rohingya armed group.
Here, Amnesty International explains this people’s plight, their state-sponsored persecution, and the crisis’ wide-ranging humanitarian effects.
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The Rohingya is a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority of about 1.1 million living mostly in Rakhine state, west Myanmar, on the border with Bangladesh.
Though they have lived in Myanmar for generations, the Myanmar government insists that all Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It refuses to recognize them as citizens, effectively rendering the majority of them stateless.
Two new landmine incidents today, including a blast blowing off a young man’s leg, bring to three the number of known sites where Myanmar authorities have mined border crossings used by Rohingya fleeing violence, Amnesty International said.
A Bangladeshi farmer in his early 20s stepped on a landmine near the Bangladeshi village of Baish Bari this morning when he was herding cattle in a buffer zone along the border with Myanmar. Witnesses told the organization of a Rohingya man being rushed to medical treatment in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh today, after a separate landmine blast near the Bangladeshi village Amtali, another known border crossing point.
“All indications point to the Myanmar security forces deliberately targeting locations that Rohingya refugees use as crossing points. This a cruel and callous way of adding to the misery of people fleeing a systematic campaign of persecution,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty international's Crisis Response Director, who is currently on the Bangladeshi side of the border.
Myanmar’s security forces planted internationally banned antipersonnel landmines along its border with Bangladesh which have seriously injured at least three civilians, including two children, and reportedly killed one man in the past week, Amnesty International confirmed today.
Based on interviews with eyewitnesses and analysis by its own weapons experts, Amnesty International has documented what seems to be targeted use of landmines along a narrow stretch forming part of the north-western border of Rakhine State, where the United Nations estimates 270,000 people have fled a major military operation in the past fortnight.
“This is another low in what is already a horrific situation in Rakhine State. The Myanmar military’s callous use of inherently indiscriminate and deadly weapons at highly trafficked paths around the border is putting the lives of ordinary people at enormous risk,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director, who is currently near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign, Amnesty International said today.
Aid workers told Amnesty International of an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation in Rakhine state, where the military has been engaged in a large-scale operation since attacks on dozens of security posts on 25 August, claimed by the armed group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
“Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response.
“These restrictions will affect all communities in Rakhine State. The government must immediately change course and allow humanitarian organizations full and unfettered access to all parts of the state to assist people in need.”
Reacting to the final report issued today by the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:
“People in Rakhine State, in particular the Muslim Rohingya minority, have suffered a horrific catalogue of rights abuses for decades. This comprehensive report released by the Commission today clearly outlines many of the steps Myanmar’s authorities must take to end discrimination and segregation in the region.
“The government has spent the past year playing for time and trying to hide behind the Commission, but has now run out of excuses not to act. Authorities in Myanmar must swiftly move to implement the report’s recommendations for improving the human rights situation and ending discrimination. In particular, they must urgently lift restrictions on movement, allow full access for humanitarian workers and media, and review and amend the country’s discriminatory citizenship laws.