Rohingya Crisis

Since August 25, Burmese security forces have been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. Over half a million Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape killings, arson, and other mass atrocities. The Rohingya, effectively denied citizenship under Burmese law, have faced decades of repression and discrimination. About 120,000 remain internally displaced from waves of violence in 2012 and 2016, in dire humanitarian conditions. Human Rights Watch researchers are reporting from the field on the crisis and its global impact.

Military’s Use of Rape for Ethnic Cleansing

Skye Wheeler, emergencies researcher for the Women’s Rights Division, has been documenting rape survivors’ stories in the Rohingya refugee camps. “The Burmese military has clearly used rape as one of a range of horrific methods of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” she told Reuters. “Rape and other forms of sexual violence has been widespread and systematic as well as brutal, humiliating, and traumatic.”

In early September, Rakhine State minister for border security, Col. Phone Tint, denied reports of military abuses, specifically sexual violence. “Where is the proof?” he asked. “Look at those women who are making these claims – would anyone want to rape them?”

The military’s denials are not new. In December 2016, the Burmese government contested reports of the military’s use of sexual violence in a press release published under the headline, “Fake Rape.” Human Rights Watch and other groups documented widespread rape and other sexual violence by security forces during the military operations starting last October. 

Read the full report, “Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls” (February 2017) >>
 

Satellite Imagery Disproves Government Claims

 
At a UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar last Friday, Burmese National Security Advisor U Thaung Thu reiterated prior claims by Aung San Suu Kyi about the timeline of military operations in Rakhine State, stating

I would like to reaffirm that violence has subsided in northern Rakhine and operations by security forces have ceased since 5 September.

However, Human Rights Watch’s analysis of satellite imagery shows that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5. 

“We don’t believe those operations did stop,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director, told the New York Times. “The narrative pushed by the military and Aung San Suu Kyi on the clearance operations is patently false.”

Thousands of Rohingya refugees continued to flee into Bangladesh on Monday, as captured in aerial drone footage from UNHCR.

On Sunday night and Monday, 10,000 to 15,000 more Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh at the Anjuman Para crossing. Aerial footage from UNHCR shows thousands crossing the border, stranded inside Bangladesh while waiting for permission to travel further. Many said they had walked for about a week, fleeing the violence and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. They said they had initially stayed despite threats, but were later forced to flee when their villages were also burned, according to the UN refugee agency.

Shamina

Shamina

Shamina gave birth to her daughter, Sharmin, in a forest after fleeing a Burmese army attack on her village. When her water broke, Shamina had been walking for four days without food or water. She was in labor through the night. Another woman fleeing the attacks used a thorn from forest brush to cut Sharmin’s umbilical cord. It took another 10 days for them to reach Bangladesh.

288 Villages, Tens of Thousands of Structures Torched

288 Villages, Tens of Thousands of Structures Torched

Newly released satellite images reveal that at least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in Northern Rakhine State since August 25. Most of the damaged villages were 90 to 100 percent destroyed.

Analysis of the images indicates that the burnings focused on Rohingya villages. It also shows that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, the date State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi recently claimed security force operations had ended.

The most damage occurred in Maungdaw Township, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the areas destroyed between August 25 and September 25. In many places, satellite imagery showed multiple areas on fire, burning simultaneously over wide areas for extended periods.

Read the full report >>
 

Ask HRW: Flight of the Rohingya

In a Facebook live event, Human Rights Watch’s Rich Weir discusses his work spent on the Bangladesh-Burma border over the past weeks documenting the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

New Military Investigation Underway

On Friday, the Tatmadaw True News Information Team announced a military-led investigation into the role of security forces in the Rakhine State crisis. The announcement, posted on commander-in-chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page, named Lt. Gen. Aye Win as head of the investigation.

Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Aye Win led the army’s investigation into military abuses in Rakhine State since October 2016. Human Rights Watch documented serious abuses committed by the military during that period, including extrajudicial killings, rape and other sexual violence, and widespread arson. In May, the army’s investigation team announced that they had uncovered no security force wrongdoing aside from two minor incidents. They also concluded that the allegations against the army in a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were either “totally wrong” or “found to be untrue due to false accusations and exaggerations.”

To read the full release on the prior investigation >>
 

Reports of Sexual Violence

Human Rights Watch researchers on the border continue to document reports of rape and other sexual violence committed by Burmese soldiers against Rohingya women and girls. Skye Wheeler, emergencies researcher for the Women’s Rights Division, shares some of their stories.

 

One woman, still bearing injuries from her attack, described to Human Rights Watch how she was raped, beaten, and slashed with machetes by soldiers, before being left in a burning house. Another woman was taken to a hut with four others and sexually assaulted by soldiers, who then set the building on fire. She was the only one to escape to alive. Survivors of the massacre in Maung Nu village described how soldiers stripped women naked and “touched [them] everywhere.” 

 

“We’re seeing pretty widespread rape and sexual assault on women,” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director, told Al Jazeera. “In my 20 years working at Human Rights Watch, these are some of the most shocking and horrific abuses that I have documented. They really bring back memories of the genocide in Rwanda in terms of the level of hatred and extreme violence shown – especially towards women and children.” 

 

Hundreds of refugees have been referred to health clinics in Cox’s Bazar for “life-saving care” due to injuries from gender-based violence. Yet these likely represent only a small number of the survivors of sexual violence among the 520,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh since late August. As the United Nations migration director general said in a recent statement:

Attempting to understand the scale of gender-based violence through known case numbers alone is impossible. This type of egregious violence and abuse is under-reported even in the best resourced and most stable settings worldwide. In crises like this, where usual social systems and protections are no longer in place, so many barriers stand in the way of survivors seeking support.
 

 

Widespread sexual violence by soldiers has long been a hallmark of the Burmese military’s culture of abuse and impunity. During the “clearance operations” in Rakhine State in late 2016, security forces committed rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Rohingya women and girls as young as 13. Human Rights Watch documented 28 incidents of rape and other sexual assault that took place from October to December. The sexual violence did not appear to be random or opportunistic, but part of a coordinated and systematic attack against the Rohingya population. More than half of the 101 women UN investigators interviewed for a February OHCHR report said they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence.

Karima

Karima

Karima Khatun, 21, survived a massacre in her village in Rakhine State. Her 2-year-old son, Mohammed Anas, was wounded when an RPG landed in their yard. Karima ran with him in her arms to a nearby paddy field to escape the attack by Burmese soldiers. There, Mohammed and Karima were struck by the same bullet, which tore through Mohammed’s abdomen and into Karima’s arm. She tried to bandage his torso with a scarf but Mohammed died as she held him. Karima also lost her husband and brother that day.

Massacre in Maung Nu

Muhamedul Hassan, 18. 

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

The Burmese military summarily executed several dozen Rohingya Muslims in Maung Nu village in Burma’s Rakhine State on August 27. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that Burmese soldiers had beaten, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and shot villagers who had gathered for safety in a residential compound.

Muhamedul Hassan, 18, said that a dozen soldiers took him and two male relatives from their house to a nearby courtyard. He said that when they got there, there were hundreds of men and boys tied up:

Four soldiers took us to the corner of the courtyard and shot us each twice in the back. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw many men still tied. [The soldiers] were still killing people. Many were stabbed to death. When I tried to flee I was shot in the chest but was able to escape.

Muhamedul showed Human Rights Watch his bullet wounds. He said that in addition to the two executed beside him, nearly 30 more male relatives were killed that day.

Satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch shows the near total destruction of the villages of Maung Nu and nearby Hpaung Taw Pyin.

Read the full report >> 
 

Latest Arrivals

Even as the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing Burma over the past month has passed half a million, thousands continue to arrive across the border. The journey is long and perilous – about 60 Rohingya are presumed dead after a boat capsized off the Bangladesh coast on Thursday.

The flight of the Rohingya is the fastest exodus since the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide 23 years ago. At a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, Secretary-General António Guterres called it “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.” Below, scenes of the ongoing arrivals.  

Thousands of new Rohingya arrivals in Teknaf, Bangladesh, near the border. Many said their homes were burned in the last few days. Others walked for weeks to escape.

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

A bridge at the Bangladesh-Burma border crossing. 

© 2017 Human Rights Watch
 

Boats at the Bangladesh-Burma border crossing. 

© 2017 Human Rights Watch
 

A truck of newly arrived Rohingya refugees is driven to camps already housing over half a million new arrivals. Smoke is seen rising from burning villages in Burma nearby. 

© 2017 Human Rights Watch
 

Smoke is seen rising from a village burning across the border in Burma.

© 2017 Human Rights Watch
 

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees are dropped off by the side of the road at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh, without aid, assistance, or information. 

© 2017 Human Rights Watch

 

What Children Have Witnessed

“Abdulaziz,” 9, stands with his brother, “Zahid,” 6, at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, the only survivors from their family seven. Three weeks ago, they watched Burmese soldiers murder their parents and siblings.

When Burmese security forces attacked their village of Tu Lar To Li on August 30, Abdulaziz led Zahid across a nearby river to escape, even as soldiers fired at them, killing some of those swimming alongside. From across the river, they saw soldiers shoot their father dead, then take their mother, brothers, and sister into a nearby house. It was soon engulfed in flames.

According to UNICEF, the majority of the 500,000 Rohingya refugees are children. They arrive in Bangladesh deeply traumatized, their lives ripped apart by the violence they have experienced and witnessed, writes Peter Bouckaert.

Read the full dispatch >> 
 

US Senators Urge Sanctions

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 22 United States senators, led by Ben Cardin and John McCain, sent a letter to senior Trump administration officials calling for greater US diplomatic efforts to be applied toward the Rohingya crisis. In addition to calling for increased humanitarian aid, the senators urged the administration to hold the perpetrators of mass atrocities in Burma accountable under US and international law, including through the use of sanctions.
 

Read the full letter >>
 

UN Security Council Meeting

UN Security Council Meeting

This meeting will only matter if the council actually takes steps to impose consequences on Burma’s military, including an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on responsible commanders.

Louis Charbonneau

United Nations Director

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council held a public meeting on Burma, its first in a decade. Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a briefing in which he called the crisis “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare,” and noted the “bone-chilling accounts from those who fled.”

Human Rights Watch had previously called on members of the Security Council to hold a public meeting and adopt a resolution that condemns the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and threatens to impose further measures.

“We welcome the fact that a number of Security Council members used today’s public meeting on Burma to demand an end to violence against Rohingya, immediate humanitarian access, and decisive council action,” said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director. “But this meeting will only matter if the council actually takes steps to impose consequences on Burma’s military, including an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on responsible commanders. No country should have active ties with Burma’s military while it is committing atrocities.”

Government Claims Burned Land

According to the law, burnt lands become government managed lands.

Win Myat Aye

Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement

At a natural disaster coordination meeting held on Wednesday in Sittwe, Minister Win Myat Aye said that the redevelopment of burned lands in Rakhine State would be managed by the government, in accordance with the 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law.

Human Rights Watch’s analysis of satellite imagery has found 288 destroyed villages in Rakhine State, including the destruction of tens of thousands of homes across Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships.

 

This week, photographer Soe Zeya Tun captured aerial views of the destruction near Maungdaw:

Aerial views of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, Rakhine State.

Global Appeal for UN Action

A global coalition of 87 civil society organizations including Human Rights Watch has urgently called on United Nations member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Burma’s ethnic Rohingya population.

“If governments, UN officials, and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Burma, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity,” the coalition said today in a joint statement. “In the face of mass destruction, killings, and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.”

Read the full statement >> 
 

Half a Million

Half a Million
 

Evidence of Atrocities

Evidence of Atrocities

In Bangladesh’s overflowing and squalid camps for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing the Burmese army’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, I met three remarkable women who told me their stories of horror and survival in the village of Tu Lar To Li, writes Peter Bouckaert in the Washington Post.

Let there be no doubt: The Burmese army is engaged in horrific atrocities in its ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. When soldiers shoot men in their custody, hack women and children to death, and burn their homes, the world needs to pay attention and act together to stop these crimes.

And although the surging river waters near Tu Lar To Li may wash away the blood and ashes of the people brutally killed and burned by the army, the nations of the world should not ignore these crimes. The UN Security Council and concerned governments need to take immediate action by imposing an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on military leaders and pursue all avenues to hold those responsible to account. Victims such as Rashida, Hassina, and Asma, who have lost almost everything, at least deserve justice.

Read the full commentary >>
 

Playing Politics With the Dead

Playing Politics With the Dead

Burma’s military announced this week that it had dug up 28 bodies in a mass grave in northern Rakhine State. The following day, they claimed to have found another 17 bodies. While continuing to block independent observers from the area, the military suggested that dozens of Hindu, a minority community, were “cruelly and violently killed by extremist Bengali terrorists.” Those claims were splashed across the local press and social media as ostensible proof of the threat Burma faces from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

The government’s quick conclusion on ARSA’s guilt contrasts sharply with its own unwillingness to credibly investigate countless alleged crimes committed by its own forces against Rohingya Muslims, writes Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director.

The government should care about all its citizens – Hindu and Muslim, as well as majority Buddhists. While it has the responsibility to respond to security threats, it needs to do within the restraints of the law.

Read the full dispatch >>
 

Crimes Against Humanity

Crimes Against Humanity

Burmese security forces are committing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population in Burma. Research by Human Rights Watch has found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault, and persecution. 

Crimes against humanity are defined under international law as acts “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” Burmese military attacks on the Rohingya have been widespread and systematic. Statements by Burmese military and government officials have indicated an intent to attack this population.

Crimes against humanity fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and may be prosecuted before national courts in countries outside of Burma, even though neither victim nor perpetrator is a national of that country.

“Global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the United Nations and concerned governments to action against the Burmese military to bring these crimes to an end,” said James Ross, legal and policy director.

Read the full release and memo on Crimes Against Humanity in Burma >>
 

The Case for Sanctions on Burmese Military Leaders

The UN Security Council and concerned member states need to impose targeted sanctions on Burmese military leaders, writes John Sifton in The Diplomat. The sanctions should apply to leaders implicated in abuses committed in Rakhine State since August 25 and include travel bans and restrictions on access to financial institutions, and a comprehensive military embargo.

While the Burmese government overall is ultimately responsible for dealing with the Rohingya crisis, it is Burma’s military leaders who are in charge of the forces committing the abuses, and are in the best position to end them. But diplomacy, condemnations, and pleas are not enough, since Burma’s military leaders are in a state of denial, and are not appreciating or even hearing outside denunciations and demands. What might have an effect, however, are hard costs that bring real world practical or financial harm to them.  

It may be impossible to convince the military leadership to care about the Rohingya, but it may be possible to stop them from killing or displacing any more Rohingya – if the consequences of not doing so impose a burden that military leaders don’t want to bear.

Read the full commentary >>
 

“This Is Really Happening.”

“This Is Really Happening.”

Rashida, 25, is an ethnic Rohingya woman from Burma. Three weeks ago, the Burmese army attacked her village, trapping hundreds on the river’s edge. The women and children were kept in the water under guard, while the soldiers systematically killed the men. 

The soldiers took the women and children away in small groups. Rashida was brought to a house with four other women where soldiers grabbed her 28-day-old baby from her and smashed it to death. Two other women had their 3-month-old babies killed the same way. 

The soldiers began attacking the five women with machetes and knives. Rashida was stabbed, her throat cut. When the soldiers were done, they locked the house and set it on fire. Rashida woke up in the burning house and managed to break through a bamboo wall to escape. She was the only survivor. 

Across the border in Bangladesh, where she fled, Rashida showed Human Rights Watch researchers the scars of her ordeal. Just two days prior, they had interviewed another survivor from the same massacre, Hasina. This is really happening, writes Peter Bouckaert. The uniformed Burmese army is slaughtering women and children in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. They need to be stopped.

Obligation of Shared Humanity

India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, said in a tweet that his government is “not violating any international law” if it deports Rohingya refugees, “as we are not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

Hold on. If India had not signed the Convention Against Torture, would Indian authorities have carte blanche to torture and ill-treat anyone in custody? Of course not, writes Bill Frelick, refugee rights program director.

Certain principles are considered customary international law – unlawful because states have long prohibited the practice, whether or not they have ratified a treaty. When your neighbor flees his burning house, you are not at liberty to push him back into the flames because you consider him a trespasser.

The Rohingya are literally fleeing their burning homes. The obligation not to push them back stems less from a signature on a piece of paper than from the fundamental principles of our shared humanity. 

Read the full dispatch >>
 

Safe Zones?

Safe Zones?

In her speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered to create “safe zones” inside Burma where Rohingya refugees could return. Over 400,000 have fled across the border from Burma’s Rakhine State in recent weeks. The Bangladesh government is seeking ways to deal with the influx, but few details of Hasina’s proposal have emerged.

Safe zones rarely, if ever, work in practice, writes Richard Weir, Burma researcher. Cases in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sri Lanka devolved into violence. And without effective humanitarian aid, conditions within safe zones could be as bad, if not worse, than in refugee camps. Given the Burmese military’s brutal and unrelenting campaign against the Rohingya, no one should be under the illusion that it will allow a safe zone to actually be safe.

Read the full dispatch >>
 

Landmines Placed in the Path of Escape

A landmine is seen near the Bangladesh-Burma border, September 10, 2017. 

© 2017 Private

Subir Ahmed was separated from his son, Azizul Huq, 15, on August 25 when Burmese soldiers arrived in their home of Taung Pyo Let Yar and opened fire on villagers finishing morning prayers. On August 28, Subir was waiting for his son at the Bangladesh border when he heard a loud blast. He saw Azizul lying on the ground, rushed over and picked him up, but the boy’s legs remained shattered on the ground. Azizul had stepped on a landmine and been killed 60 meters from the Bangladesh border.

Witnesses have told Human Rights Watch that in recent weeks Burmese soldiers have laid antipersonnel landmines at key crossing points on Burma’s border with Bangladesh. Military personnel were also seen planting mines along roads in northern Rakhine State prior to their attacks on villages, leaving the landmines in the path of the refugees who later fled the military’s gunfire.

“Placing landmines in the path of fleeing refugees and on roads where families are likely to travel is heartless beyond words,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director.

Read the full report >>
 

Witness to Carnage

Witness to Carnage

Hasina, a 20-year-old Rohingya woman, fled Burma when her village, Tula Toli, was attacked in late August by the Burmese army on a rampage of killing and arson.

She saw soldiers murder dozens – villagers, her mother-in-law, three young relatives. And her infant daughter. Hasina had tried to hide the baby under her shawl but a soldier noticed the infant, grabbed her, and tossed her into the fire.

Soldiers tried to rape Hasina and other female relatives. They locked her in a house, unconscious, and set it on fire. She escaped the flames and managed to cross the border into Bangladesh, gravely injured.

Hasina insisted we take her picture and show her face to the world, writes Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director. She asked us to tell her story so the world knows what is happening there.

Read the full account >>
 

Thailand’s Plan for Inhumane ‘Push-Backs’

Thailand’s Plan for Inhumane ‘Push-Backs’

Rather than expressing sympathy and support for the 420,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, Thailand is preparing to respond with the back of its hand. The government has announced a three-step action plan to respond to the crisis:

  • The navy will intercept Rohingya boats that come too close to the Thai coast.
  • Officials will provide fuel, food, water, and other supplies on the condition the occupants agree to travel onward.
  • Any boat that manages to land on Thai shores will be seized, and immigration officials will apprehend and put Rohingya men, women, and children in indefinite detention.

These inhumane measures were announced shortly after a meeting between Thailand’s junta leaders and Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Burma’s army chief responsible for the military operations against the Rohingya. Thai authorities have for years said they do not want to accept Rohingya refugees.

The inhumane “push-back” policy planned for new boat arrivals should be scrapped immediately, writes Sunai Phasuk, senior Thailand researcher.

By continuing to turn a blind eye to the plight of Rohingya, Thailand's reputation will be at risk, and the government will face a continued exodus by desperate Rohingya. 

Read the full commentary >>

Prior Human Rights Watch coverage of Thailand’s policies toward the Rohingya:

Accounts From the Border

Accounts From the Border

The 422,000 Rohingya who have fled Burma in recent weeks have arrived in Bangladesh with harrowing accounts of Burmese security force abuses. Human Rights Watch researchers on the ground are speaking with them to document the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Fire, Then Rain

For days, monsoon rains have poured down on the border in Bangladesh, flooding the makeshift refugee camps as Rohingya Muslims continue arriving from Burma. An estimated 422,000 have fled the Burmese government’s brutal military operations since late August. Now, they face heavy rains that have washed out many areas’ mud-floor shelters, destroying some of the few saved belongings and displacing refugees anew.

Aung San Suu Kyi Ignores Ethnic Cleansing

Aung San Suu Kyi Ignores Ethnic Cleansing

Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a speech in Naypyidaw on September 19 addressing the crisis that has forced more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee the country. She claimed that since September 5, there had been “no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations” – but Human Rights Watch’s satellite analysis detected dozens of active fires in Rakhine state over the past few weeks. On September 13, Human Rights Watch researchers across the border in Bangladesh saw the Rohingya village of Taung Pyo Let Yar burn.

“Aung San Suu Kyi seems to find it mysterious that more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma. But there is no mystery – the Burmese military’s campaign of mass arson, killing, and looting is unrelenting ethnic cleansing. Rather than offer propaganda tours, she should welcome the UN fact-finding mission. Rather than falsely claim basic rights are protected in Rakhine State, she should act to punish those responsible for atrocities and bring Rohingya refugees safely back home,” said Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

“Unfortunately, Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be part of the problem. The solution is for world leaders gathered at the UN to take all necessary steps to impose targeted sanctions on Burmese commanders responsible for grave abuses and an arms embargo on the military.”

Human Rights Council Statement

Human Rights Council Statement

The UN Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with the fact-finding mission on Burma today, with an update from FFM chair Marzuki Darusman.

Human Rights Watch delivered an oral statement pressing the council for an urgent response on the crisis in Burma:

The Human Rights Council also cannot sit idly by. It did the right thing in creating the FFM six months ago but it now needs to respond to the catastrophe unfolding before our eyes. It needs – this session – to denounce the atrocities, extend the mandate of the FFM, renew the call for access, and request the FFM to report to the General Assembly.

Read the full statement and a Q & A on the fact-finding mission >>
 

Over 210 Villages Destroyed

Over 210 Villages Destroyed

Human Rights Watch’s new analysis of satellite imagery shows the near-total destruction of 214 villages in Rakhine State, part of the Burmese security forces’ ongoing campaign of mass atrocities.

Yae Twin Kyun village Yae Twin Kyun village

Satellite imagery recorded before and after the destruction of Yae Twin Kyun village. Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Before: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe After: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Nwar Yon Taung village Nwar Yon Taung village

Satellite imagery recorded before and after the destruction of Nwar Yon Taung village. Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Before: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe After: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Myar Zin village Myar Zin village

Satellite imagery recorded before and after the destruction of Myar Zin village. Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Before: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe After: Satellite imagery © 2017 DigitalGlobe

The detailed satellite images reveal destruction of tens of thousands of homes across Rakhine State, with more than 90 percent of the structures in each village damaged – devastation much greater than previously known. The images corroborate accounts gathered by Human Right Watch from refugees who have described the widespread arson carried out by the Burmese military, police, and ethnic Rakhine mobs.

The images provide evidence of an apparent attempt by Burmese security forces to prevent Rohingya from returning to their villages.

The New York Times featured the analysis. 

Time for Sanctions

Time for Sanctions

The United Nations Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Burmese military to end its ethnic cleansing campaign.

“The time has come to impose tougher measures that Burma’s generals cannot ignore,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director. “Burma’s senior military commanders are more likely to heed the calls of the international community if they are suffering real economic consequences.”

World leaders gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly must make the crisis in Burma a priority.

“The world leaders are in New York for the super bowl of diplomacy in the midst of one of the most vicious ethnic cleansing campaigns in modern history. It cannot be business as usual for the UN General Assembly,” Philippe Bolopion, deputy director of global advocacy, told BBC World Service. “They need to act now.”

Australia Needs to Stand Up and Help

Australia Needs to Stand Up and Help

The world seems to be sitting on its hands as the Rohingya crisis in Burma descends into what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Why should Australia care? After all, there are crises aplenty around the world. Why is this one more significant and worthy of our attention?

The Australian government today has a more robust capability to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief than ever before, writes Elaine Pearson, Australia director.

Australia is best placed to offer to form the foundation of a multinational and multiagency coalition to respond to this massive humanitarian crisis. It has long been a middle power acting like a small power, but it can accomplish a great deal when it rises to the occasion.

Read the full commentary >>