Myanmar village destruction has ‘hallmarks’ of military: HRW

By AFP

YANGON — At least 200 houses and other buildings were destroyed by fire in Rakhine State in an incident that has “all the hallmarks” of previous military arson attacks on villages, a rights group said Tuesday.

Let Kar village in the northwestern state of Rakhine was mostly deserted when the buildings went up in flames on May 16 after the population of mainly ethnic Rakhine Buddhists fled more than a year ago, Human Rights Watch said, citing satellite images and witnesses.

Myanmar’s military has been locked in an increasingly brutal war against the Arakan Army, insurgents fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, since January last year that has killed scores of people and forced 150,000 to flee their homes.

Both the military and the AA deny responsibility for the destruction in Let Kar in Mrauk-U Township, accusing the other of committing what HRW warns could constitute a war crime.

“The burning of Let Kar village has all the hallmarks of Myanmar military arson on Rohingya villages in recent years,” said Mr Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for HRW.

“A credible and impartial investigation is urgently needed to find out what happened, punish those responsible, and provide compensation to villagers harmed.”

Rakhine is the state where a 2017 military crackdown forced about 750,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh in violence that has led to Myanmar facing genocide charges at the UN’s top court.

Robertson added that the government should request UN assistance in the probe and not leave it to the military.

The HRW analysis of the satellite images “most likely” underestimates the scale of the destruction because internal damage to buildings is not visible, the group said.

There have been no reports of any deaths.

U Kyaw Zaw Hla, 46, who has been living in a camp near the village with his family since fleeing, confirmed his home was among those razed.

“We’ve lost everything,” he told AFP by phone. “We aren’t able to make a living and we have no access to healthcare.”

Photos released by the armed forces show “AA insurgents running away after setting fire to the village”, military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun said Friday, allegations rebuffed by the AA.

The conflict-ridden area is under an internet shutdown and off-limits to journalists, making independent reporting difficult.

UN rights expert Ms Yanghee Lee last month warned Myanmar’s military should be investigated for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lee accused the armed forces of disappearing, torturing and killing dozens of AA suspects, allegations the military denied.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar