Persecution of Rohingya Continues Despite Refugee Deal

Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar for Bangladesh. (Photo: Kevin Fraser/Getty Images)
Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar for Bangladesh. (Photo: Kevin Fraser/Getty Images)

Myanmar continues to mistreat the Rohingya minority despite a deal signed with Bangladesh, according to Human Rights Watch. Around two-thirds of the Rohingya population fled Myanmar following a military crackdown that began in August.

Satellite images seen by Human Rights Watch showed villages that were torched following the deal, reportedly signed on November 23. In that deal, Myanmar agreed to allow some 655,000 Rohingya back into the country after they escaped to Bangladesh.

The images show damage to 40 villages. Human Rights Watch says the extent of the damages shows it is not safe for Rohingya refugees to return.

The Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are not recognized as citizens, despite many having lived there for generations. Instead they are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Large numbers of migrants from Bangladesh came in while Britain ruled the area. After independence in 1948, they were never recognized by the government of Myanmar. The army has driven out thousands of Rohingya. There are widespread reports of massacres, torture and rapes. In September, Myanmar was accused of beheading children.

In November, the Trump administration officially acknowledged Myanmar is engaged in ethnic cleansing. “The situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into possible war crimes and genocide.

“The thresholds for proof are high,” he said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me in the future if a court were to make such a finding on the basis of what we see.”

He indicated that eventual charges may target Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her opposition to Myanmar’s military dictatorship but has since been criticized for failing to act to protect the Rohingya.

 

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