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Amnesty: Rakhine State’s conflict escalates as villages burned, civilians killed

  • Published at 12:26 pm October 13th, 2020
Rohingya
File photo of Rohingyas Reuters

The evidence is based on firsthand testimony, photographs and video obtained from inside Rakhine state

New evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Rakhine State of Myanmar have emerged amid serious escalations in the ongoing armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), Amnesty International said.

The evidence is based on firsthand testimony, photographs and video obtained from inside Rakhine State, and analysis of satellite imagery as well as media reports and civil society sources; witnesses’ names have been changed, the Amnesty report said on Monday.

Remote sensing analysis and new witness testimony gathered by Amnesty suggested that Myanmar soldiers burned a village in central Rakhine State's Kyauktaw Township in early September.

One witness, villager U Kyaw Tin, who lives in the area, told Amnesty that he was walking with his cow when the Myanmar military launched an assault on Hpa Yar Paung on September 3, the report further said. 

“[They] started shooting, they entered the village. I didn’t know exactly where the shooting came from. We were trying to run to the other side. We didn’t really see what exactly was going on, because we all were running.” 

He said it appeared the village was closed in on by the Myanmar military from two directions: “Two [sets of] troops, one from each side – one from the road and one from the mountain. There was also shooting from [a remote location], but there was also something from the roadside, coming in by car.”

 A spokesperson for the Myanmar military, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told journalists a police vehicle was attacked by the Arakan Army with a remotely detonated improvised explosive device (IED) near the village.

Rakhine men detained, found dead later

According to information supplied to Amnesty International, the Myanmar military were seen arresting two Rakhine men from the village that evening. Their bodies were reportedly found near the river with gunshot wounds the next morning. 

Their bodies have since been transported by the military for postmortem in Kyauktaw. The Myanmar military told the media “two enemy bodies and a gun” were seized from the site.  

“[The Myanmar military] started the arson attack around 9pm,” U Kyaw Tin told Amnesty International. 

“After they finished the arson attack they went to another site near the hill and they started to also attack there,” he added.

Satellite image analysis conducted by Amnesty International has found that over 120 structures in the ethnic Rakhine-populated villages of Taung Pauk and Hpa Yar Paung villages in Kyauktaw Township appeared burned to the ground, in imagery captured on September 10, 2020.

“There are no signs of the conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military abating – and civilians continue to bear the brunt,” Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns said.

“The Myanmar military’s utter disregard for civilian suffering grows more shocking and brazen by the day. The UN Security Council must urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court,” Hah added.

89,564 people displaced 

New figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) indicate that 89,564 people were displaced to 180 sites in Rakhine State between January 2019 and  September 7, 2020. 

These figures were based on numbers provided by the Rakhine State government and UNOCHA’s humanitarian partners. Local civil society groups indicated the true displacement figure is likely higher, as villagers fled to areas now only nominally under government control.

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