Satellite data accessed by a rights body shows widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, following a military crackdown on the country’s Muslim Rohingya population.
Residents and activists have accused soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks.
However, authorities in Myanmar say close to 100 Muslims have been killed since Friday when armed men, reportedly from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a pre-dawn raid on police outposts in the restive region.
Myanmar authorities say Rohingya “extremist terrorists” have been setting the fires during fighting with government troops, while Rohingya have blamed soldiers, who have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings.
The locations of the fires correlate with some witness statements and media reports describing blazes deliberately set, the group said.
“This new satellite data should cause concern and prompt action by donors and UN agencies to urge the Burmese government to reveal the extent of ongoing destruction in Rakhine State,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.
“Shuffling all the blame on insurgents doesn’t spare the Burmese [Myanmar] government from its international obligations to stop abuses and investigate alleged violations.”
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, “is deeply concerned at the reports of civilians being killed …,” according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Guterres called on Bangladesh to step up assistance to civilians escaping the violence, noting “many of those fleeing are women and children, some of whom are wounded”.
More than 3,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar, where the ethnic Muslim minority faces persecution, in the past three days, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday.The top UN human rights official called on authorities to ensure that the security forces refrain from using disproportionate force against Rohingya.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned coordinated attacks by rebels on security forces last Friday, but said that the political leadership had a duty to protect all civilians “without discrimination”.