A human rights group expressed concern for the safety of thousands of Muslims yesterday after revealing satellite images of a once-thriving coastal community reduced to ashes during a week of violence in western Myanmar.
The images released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch show “near total destruction” of a predominantly Rohingya Muslim part of Kyaukpyu, one of several areas in Rakhine State where battles between Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists threaten to derail the former Burma’s fragile democratic transition.
More than 811 buildings and houseboats were razed in Kyaukpyu on Wednesday, forcing many Rohingya to flee north by sea toward the state capital Sittwe, Human Rights Watch said.
“Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan [Rakhine] State, who are under vicious attack,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director.
There were widespread unconfirmed reports of boatloads of Rohingyas trying to cross the sea border to neighboring Bangladesh, which has denied them refugee status since 1992.
Dozens of boats full of Rohingyas with no food or water had fled Kyaukpyu, an industrial zone important to China, and other recent hotspots were seeking access on Friday to overcrowded refugee camps around the state capital Sittwe, according to four Rohingya refugee sources.
Some boats were blocked by security forces from reaching the shore and few Rohingyas managed to reach the camps, the sources said by telephone.
Wan-lark foundation, an organization that has been assisting Rakhine Buddhist refugees, said no clashes in the state had been reported to them since Friday night, but dead bodies of Rakhines had been found.
“Around 6pm last night in Kyawtyaw, the bodies of 16 Rakhines were found in the sea. They had died during the attacks on Thursday. We’re looking for more bodies,” representative Tun Mein Thein said yesterday.
The chaos suggests the reformist government is struggling to contain historic ethnic and religious tensions suppressed during nearly a half century of military rule that ended last year.
A Rakhine government spokesman put the death toll at 112 as of Friday. However, within hours state media revised it to 67 killed from Oct. 21 to Thursday, with 95 wounded and nearly 3,000 houses destroyed.
The death toll could be far higher, Human Rights Watch said, citing “allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state.”
The clashes come just five months after communal unrest killed more than 80 people and displaced at least 75,000 in the same region.
A boat carrying 120 Muslims from Kyaukpyu was intercepted by Rakhines, who killed the men and raped the women, the advocacy group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said in a statement. This claim could not be verified.
“Ethnic cleansing is happening under the noses of the international community and they are doing nothing,” said Tun Khin, the group’s president. “We have confirmed reports that hundreds of people have been killed and the government must be aware of that.”
Kyaukpyu is crucial to China’s most strategic investment in Myanmar: twin pipelines that will carry oil and natural gas through the town on the Bay of Bengal to China’s energy-hungry western provinces.
The UN has warned that Myanmar’s fledgling democracy could be “irreparably damaged” by the violence.
Rohingyas are officially stateless. Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, and denies them citizenship.
Many of those expelled from Kyaukpyu are not Rohingya but Muslims from the officially recognized Kaman minority, said Chris Lewa, director of the Rohingya advocacy group, Arakan Project.
“It’s not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore, it’s anti-Muslim,” she said.
It was unclear what set off the latest arson and killing that started on Sunday last week. In June, tension flared after the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman that was blamed on Muslims, but there was no obvious spark this time.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International have called on Myanmar to amend or repeal a 1982 citizenship law to end the Rohingyas’ stateless condition.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”