Yangon: After driving nearly 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 Monday, citing new evidence from satellite imagery.
A harsh military campaign launched on August 25 sent members of the Rohingya Muslim minority fleeing to Bangladesh and saw more than 350 villages destroyed by fire in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. An Amnesty report published on Monday echoed previous ones by saying the remains of some of those villages – and some buildings not previously damaged – had been bulldozed.
As well as rapid housing and road construction in the area, at least three new security facilities were under construction, the global human rights group said, adding that in one case, Rohingya villagers who had remained in Myanmar were forcibly evicted to make way for a base.
“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. “New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya.”
At least four mosques that had not been wrecked by fire have been destroyed, or had their roofing or other materials removed, since late December, a time when significant conflict was not reported in the area, Amnesty said.
It pointed out that Myanmar’s “reshaping” of the region where the Rohingya lived appeared to be designed to accommodate more security forces and non-Rohingya villagers, and could deter refugees from agreeing to return.
“Rohingya who fled death and destruction at the hands of the security forces are unlikely to find the prospect of living in close proximity to those same forces conducive to a safe return,” the group said, “especially given the continuing lack of accountability for human rights violations.”
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