Rohingya crisis: Satellite images 'show burned remains of bulldozed Muslim villages'

Rohingya crisis: Satellite images 'show burned remains of bulldozed Muslim villages'

The Rohingya crisis faces an intractable future, with Bangladesh struggling to cope with the influx of people, no obvious third-country resettlement options, and a population too scarred by violence against them to consider returning.

New satellite images of Myanmar's Rakhine state show that the Myanmar authorities have been bulldozing Rohingya Muslim villages that were burned down during the "ethnic cleansing campaign" against the minority, human rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

The UN refugee agency has also been excluded from a Rohingya refugee repatriation process organised by Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The rights body further said the UN Security Council, other UN agencies and donors should demand the Myanmar government immediately halt the demolition of Rohingya villages.

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"Some 720,000 Rohingya children are essentially trapped - either hemmed in by violence and forced displacement inside Myanmar, or stranded in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh because they can't return home", said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs.

The HRW report comes as Myanmar and Bangladesh are preparing to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to northern Rakhine, where the government has said it has built houses in more than 20 villages to accommodate the returnees.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya fled northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh after Myanmar launched security operations dogged by accusations of significant human rights abuses.

Many in the Buddhist majority revile the Rohingya and brand the group as foreign interlopers, despite their having lived in Rakhine for generations.

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The Burmese government has said the bulldozing of villages was part of its plan to rebuild the villages with improved roads and houses. The demolition has raised deep concern among human rights advocates as according to them the government is destroying evidence before any credible investigation takes place. Human rights organizations claim there are no conditions for a safe return. Myanmar bars independent media access to the state.

The AP reported some reasons to doubt the assertion that construction efforts were meant to help the Rohingya, who "fear authorities are seizing land they've lived on for generations".

The U.S. and Canada have already imposed sanctions on Myanmar military officers, including Major General Maung Maung Soe, head of the Myanmar Army's Western Command, who led the military's brutal crackdown on the Rohingya. The HRW has also said that these settlements should be preserved as "crime scenes".

Scores of ethnic Rohingya communities have been cleared by heavy machinery in Myanmar, leaving barren clearings where tree-shaded villages previously stood, Human Rights Watch said on Friday in a press release on Friday that included satellite images of the destruction. In a report, United Nations investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

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According to a description of the event by its organizers, "The Berlin Conference on Myanmar Genocide aims to inform German civil society and European public about the ongoing genocide of Rohingya people in Myanmar".

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