Brutal Attacks on Rohingya: “We Will Torch Your Houses and Kill You.”

In September 2017, newly arrived Rohingya refugees from Myanmar walk through paddy fields and flooded land after they fled over the border into Cox’s Bazar district, Chittagong Division in Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Brown
In September 2017, newly arrived Rohingya refugees from Myanmar walk through paddy fields and flooded land after they fled over the border into Cox’s Bazar district, Chittagong Division in Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Brown

Brutal attacks against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State have been well-organised, coordinated, and systematic, a new UN report based on interviews conducted in Bangladesh has found.

The report observes that the attacks were carried out with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes.

The report by a team from the UN Human Rights Office, who met with the newly arrived Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar from 14 to 24 September 2017, states that human rights violations committed against the Rohingya population were carried out by Myanmar security forces often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals.

The report, released on Wednesday, is based on some 65 interviews with individuals and groups. It also highlights a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological” among the Rohingya population.

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More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar security forces launched an operation in response to alleged attacks by militants on 25 August against 30 police posts and a regimental headquarters. The report states the “clearance operations” started before 25 August 2017, and as early as the beginning of August.

The UN Human Rights Office says it is gravely concerned for the safety of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in northern Rakhine State amid reports the violence is still ongoing, and calls on authorities to immediately allow humanitarian and human rights actors unfettered access to the stricken areas.

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The report cites testimony from witnesses that security forces scorched dwellings and entire villages, were responsible for extrajudicial and summary executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and attacks on places of worship. Eyewitnesses reported numerous killings, saying some victims were deliberately targeted and others were killed through explosions, fire, and stray bullets.

The report states that in some cases, before and during the attacks, megaphones were used to announce: “You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.”

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UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has described the Government operations in northern Rakhine State as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” has also urged the Government to immediately end its “cruel” security operation.

The report indicates that efforts were taken to effectively erase signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain.

Information received indicates that the Myanmar security forces targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence of the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture, and knowledge.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman