Myanmar erasing evidence of Rohingya crimes

Rohingya Muslims carry their children and belongings after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh

Rohingya Muslims carry their children and belongings after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh

Myanmar is building security installations on top of razed Rohingya villages, Amnesty International said Monday, casting doubt on plans to repatriate hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In the report titled "Remaking Rakhine State", Amnesty has revealations by witness testimony, expert analysis and satellite images the progress of the military's construction, which intensified in January.

Spokesperson Colm O'Gorman says it makes it even more hard for refugees to return home.

"What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale", said Amnesty's Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan.

The report comes on the heels of a similar investigation published by Human Rights Watch in February, in which the organization alleged Myanmar's forces were demolishing Rohingya villages in order to erase any proof of human rights abuses that may have been committed in Rakhine. In one case, Rohingya villagers who had remained in Myanmar were forcibly evicted to make way for a base, it said.

The government has denied burning down villages to drive out the Rohingya. Even surrounding trees and other vegetation have been removed, rendering much of the landscape unrecognisable.

Rakhine state has been largely sealed off from rights groups, the media and United Nations investigators.

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As well as rapid housing and road construction in the area, at least three new security facilities were under construction, the global human rights group said.

Satellite imagery also shows how new refugee reception centres - meant to "welcome" Rohingya who return from Bangladesh - are surrounded by security fences and close to areas with a heavy presence of military and border guard personnel.

A man walks past the entrance of a camp set up by Myanmar's Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister to prepare for the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh, outside Maungdaw in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar January 24, 2018.

Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the Rohingya community as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement. Most rely on aid for their basic needs.

"We are going to build new villages and new homes and resettle people there according to the village planning", he added.

Myanmar has denied it is covering up evidence, saying it is improving the standards of living in one of the country's poorest states. The authorities can not be allowed to continue their campaign of ethnic cleansing in the name of "development". "Contributing to entrenching a system that systematically discriminates against Rohingya and that makes the return of refugees even less likely could amount to assisting in crimes against humanity".

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