Myanmar is building military camps over flattened Rohingya villages, Amnesty International says, pointing to a key reason behind the targeting of the Muslim minority in resource-rich Rakhine State.
Security forces had bulldozed whole villages and started constructing at least three bases along the border with Bangladesh, said Amnesty’s “Remaking Rakhine State” report, using satellite imagery and refugee statements.
“What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale. New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya,” said Amnesty’s Tirana Hassan.
“The new construction is entrenching the already dehumanising discrimination they have faced in Myanmar.”
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August 25, when the military-controlled authorities reported militant attacks near the border.
The government keeps the international media and NGOs away from the conflict areas, hampering independent reporting.
Amnesty said Rohingya in war-torn Buthidaung Township had been evicted from their homes to make way for the development.
Myint Khine, a Rakhine administrator, said the developments were not a “military land grab”.
“We have been using bulldozers for building roads and construction … not for military,” Khine told the media.
At least 55 Rohingya settlements have been completely bulldozed since the ongoing crisis began, Human Rights Watch reported.
The UN says it is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.
Facebook has been blamed by UN investigators for playing a leading role in the alleged genocide by spreading hate speech.
Facebook has previously claimed to be working to remove hate speech in Myanmar and ban the people spreading it. Facebook is extremely popular in Myanmar and a central forum for political discussion.
Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said social media had played a “determining role” in the military-dominated country.
“It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,” he said.
The UN’s Myanmar rapporteur Yanghee Lee said Facebook was a huge part of public, civil and private life, and the government used it to spread its version of events. The timid domestic media usually repeats government statements as fact.
“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” she told the media, adding that it had been used to spread hate speech.
“It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities,” the Korean academic said.
Myanmar’s young population uses Facebook heavily. Picture credit: Asean Economist