Myanmar’s ‘extensive and systematic preparations’ for Rohingya atrocities

In the weeks and months before hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, authorities had made “extensive and systematic preparations” for attacks on the Muslim minority, according to a human rights group. A landmark report released July 19 by Bangkok-based Fortify says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that genocide and crimes against humanity were committed against the minority. The group has called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for criminal investigation.

The Rohingya are a persecuted and mostly stateless Muslim minority from Rakhine state in western Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. After an insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked state security forces on August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military carried out brutal reprisals against Rohingya civilians characterized by murder, rape and arson. The crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into neighboring Bangladesh.

Fortify says that the campaign to expel them was not merely a response to the insurgent attack, but that it was premeditated. It suggests that the international community’s failure to effectively respond to the October violence may have emboldened security forces, who appear to have been poised and waiting for a second attack to trigger the group’s violent expulsion.

Systematic preparations detailed in the report include the collection of sharp or blunt objects from Rohingya civilians, training and arming local non-Rohingya communities, tearing down protective fencing and other structures around Rohingya homes, deliberately depriving Rohingya of food and life-saving aid to weaken them prior to attacks, and deploying unnecessarily high numbers of state security forces to northern Rakhine state.

The report says attacks in northern Rakhine beginning in August 2017 were committed by at least 27 Myanmar Army battalions, comprising up to 11,000 soldiers and at least three combat police battalions. It also identifies 22 military and police officials in the chain of command as responsible and suggests they should face criminal investigation and possibly prosecution.

– edited from Time, July 19, 2018
PeaceMeal, July/August 2018

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