The Rohingya have been largely confined to refugee camps since pogroms in 2012. Source: YouTube
The authorities in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State have reported an increase in violence, with at least eight people killed and 36 arrested in clashes between the army and alleged Muslim militants.
The army has been conducting counterinsurgency operations since nine police officers were allegedly killed in attacks on outposts along the Bangladeshi border on October 9.
Human Rights Watch said it had satellite pictures showing around 400 homes had been burned near the border with Bangladesh.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams said the pictures showed “widespread destruction” that was worse than previously believed. “Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims,” Adams said.
The Ministry of Information said violence broke out on Saturday while human rights groups accused the military or Tatmadaw of abusing Muslim Rohingya civilians, especially since the alleged attacks. NGOs and journalists are denied access to Maungdaw Township and no official reports have been verified.
There has been no credible description of what, if any, organised group has been fighting against the authorities.
NGOs accuse the Tatmadaw of killing, raping and burning the homes of the Rohingya, who are often called “Bengalis” by Buddhist citizens, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya say they descended from Arab traders centuries ago.
The authorities said its forces were ambushed on Saturday by about 60 attackers armed with guns, knives and spears. It claimed one soldier and at least six militants were killed, adding that an officer died in a subsequent clash with 500 armed men. Two military helicopters were deployed, it was claimed.
More than 100,000 Rohingya shelter in filthy camps since being driven from their homes in 2012. Most of the 1.1 million-strong community is denied citizenship.
On Friday, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, called on Nay Pyi Taw to investigate claims of mass rape. She called for the authorities to allow humanitarian access to northern Rakhine to provide support. Many villagers have been without access to food and other basics since the alleged attacks last month.
The ministry claimed that the militants set fire to a village as they retreated but rights groups claim the Tatmadaw has been burning down Rohingya homes.
The official statement said soldiers had arrested 36 men believed to be among the attackers.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi remains mostly silent on the issue.