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Myanmar army forces hundreds of Rohingya villagers from homes

  • Published at 07:29 pm October 25th, 2016
Myanmar army forces hundreds of Rohingya villagers from homes

Hundreds of Myanmar's Rohingya villagers are facing a second night hiding in rice fields without shelter, after the army on Sunday forcibly removed them from a village in a crackdown following attacks on border security forces.

Four Rohingya sources contacted by Reuters by telephone, said border guard officers went to Kyee Kan Pyin village on Sunday and ordered about 2,000 villagers to abandon it, giving them just enough time to collect basic household items.

The move marks an escalation in violence which has destabilised Myanmar's most volatile state located in the remote northwest. In Rakhine, relations between the Rohingya and majority Buddhists have hit their lowest point since hundreds of people were killed and thousands displaced in ethnic and religious violence in 2012.

The government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has said the army and police in Rakhine are fighting a group of at least 400 insurgents, drawn from the Rohingya Muslim minority, with links to Islamist militants overseas.

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'I became homeless'

"I was kicked out from my house yesterday afternoon, now I live in a paddy field outside of my village with some 200 people including my family - I became homeless," said a Rohingya man from Kyee Kan Pyin village contacted by Reuters by telephone.

"After the soldiers arrived at our village, they said that if all of us didn't leave, they would shoot us," he said.

Another witness and two Rohingya community elders based in Maungdaw who are collecting information from across the area have corroborated the account, estimating a total of about 2,000 villagers were removed from homes.

Some were able to find shelter in neighbouring villages, but hundreds spent last night hiding in the rice fields. They are still stranded and are facing another without shelter.

[caption id="attachment_24777" align="aligncenter" width="800"]In this photograph taken on September 7, 2016, minority Muslim Rohingya residents walk on a road at the Aung Mingalar displacement camp in Sittwe after the Rakhine State has been effectively split on religious grounds between Buddhists and Muslims since bouts of communal violence tore through the state in 2012, killing scores and forcing tens of thousands to flee. Anti-Muslim sentiment runs high in the impoverished region, fanned by hardline Buddhist nationalists who revile the Rohingya and are viscerally opposed to any move to grant them citizenship. They insist the roughly one-million strong group are intruders from neighbouring Bangladesh, even though many can trace their ancestry in Myanmar back generations. / AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD In this photograph taken on September 7, 2016, minority Muslim Rohingya residents walk on a road at the Aung Mingalar displacement camp in Sittwe. AFP[/caption]

Mynt Kyaw, a government spokesman, said the government was unable to contact anyone in the area because it was a militarily-operated "red zone".

"A Muslim man called me this morning as they were being forcibly removed from their homes, but I was not able to confirm that information," said Mynt Kyaw.

The military did not respond to a request for comment.

Videos uploaded on social media by Rohingya rights activists showed men and women speaking Rohingya language carrying their belongings and livestock to other villages or waiting out the crackdown in paddy fields.

The area around Maungdaw Township, near the border with Bangladesh, is under military lockdown and journalists and aid workers have not been allowed to go inside.

UN calls for probe crackdown in Rakhine

The United Nations has called for a probe into allegations that Myanmar troops have killed civilians and torched villages in northern Rakhine state, as fresh reports emerged of forced evictions in a security crackdown. Aid agencies estimate more than 15,000 people have been displaced since the military took control of an area close to the Bangladesh border two weeks ago, a region which is home to the stateless Rohingya minority. Myanmar's government says hundreds of Rohingya fighters led by a Taliban-trained jihadist were behind deadly raids on several police posts on October 9 that sparked a major security response. Since then the military has stopped aid deliveries to tens of thousands of people in northern Rakhine and blocked access to rights groups and journalists. Most of the people in the locked-down area are Rohingya -- a Muslim minority reviled by many in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. [caption id="attachment_24779" align="aligncenter" width="800"]In this photograph taken on October 21, 2016, armed Myanmar army soldiers patrol a village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State as security operation continue following the October 9, 2016 attacks by armed militant Muslim. The United Nations called for an investigation into claims Myanmar troops have been killing civilians and torching villages in northern Rakhine, as reports emerged thousands of Rohingya had been forced from their homes. / AFP PHOTO / STR In this photograph taken on October 21, 2016, armed Myanmar army soldiers patrol a village in Maungdaw located in Rakhine State as security operation continue. AFP[/caption] In a statement released late Monday, the UN urged Myanmar's government "to undertake proper and thorough investigations of alleged violations". "Reports of homes and mosques being burnt down and persons of a certain profile being rounded up and shot are alarming and unacceptable," said the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard. "The authorities cannot justify simply shooting suspects down on the basis of the seriousness of the crime alone," she said, referring to the assaults on border guards that sparked the clampdown. While details of military abuses are hard to verify, the UN said it has received "repeated allegations" of arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings "within the context of the security operations".

80,000 not receiving aid in north Rakhine

Food aid for more than 80,000 people in parts of northwest Myanmar has been suspended because of a military clampdown in the area, the World Food Programme said Wednesday.

Troops have poured into the north of Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border since attacks on police posts over a week ago, closing off an area where most people are from Myanmar's persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority.

The WFP normally feeds some 80,000-85,000 people in the locked-down area, but aid deliveries have been disrupted and the military has prevented any supplies getting through.

"There is military everywhere and a curfew in place, and so it's impossible to access any of the areas affected," said Arsen Sahakyan, WFP's partnership officer in Myanmar.

"The areas affected are also the areas where we normally operate."

Severe restrictions

The Rohingya are reviled as alleged illegal immigrants by many in Myanmar, where they face severe restrictions on their movements, education and access to food. Fears the violence will spread to other parts of the state have prompted the WFP to restart aid to some 6,000 displaced people whom they had stopped feeding several months ago. The anger was on display outside a monastery in Maungdaw that has become a makeshift refugee camp for Rakhines, where a sign read: "We don't need any support from UN, INGOs -- Maungdaw Rakhine state." "I'm really angry now," said Hla Shwe, a Rakhine villager who was staying inside. "When our Rakhine houses were burned and attacked in 2012, they didn't let the world know," he told, referring to the aid agencies. "We are the ones who have became local IDPs (internally displaced people). We are the ones who don't have citizens' rights. "They should think about the human rights of Rakhine ethnics as well."
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