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Myanmar’s army planned out Rohingya genocide: Rights group

Rohingya Muslim refugees gather near the fence in the “no man’s land” between Myanmar and Bangladesh border as seen from Maungdaw, Rakhine State, Myanmar, on June 29, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A human rights group says Myanmar’s army had made “systematic preparations” for “genocide” against Rohingya Muslims in the country’s western state of Rakhine, before Myanmar’s security posts came under alleged militant attacks in August 2017.

The independent group Fortify Rights said in a report on Thursday that Myanmar’s military had systematically planned a genocidal campaign to rid the country of Rohingya Muslims, and the mass atrocities perpetrated against the ethnic minority had been the culmination of months of meticulous planning by the security forces.

“Myanmar authorities made extensive and systematic preparations for the commission of mass atrocity crimes against indigenous Rohingya civilians during the weeks and months before Rohingya-militant attacks on August 25, 2017,” Fortify Rights says in the 162-page report.

The rights-advocacy group said the army “disarmed” the Rohingya in Rakhine by confiscating their household items that might be used as weapons, demolished homes and suspended aid supplies by humanitarian groups to the impoverished community.

“Taken together, these measures demonstrate a level of preparation not previously documented with respect to the Myanmar army-led ‘clearance operations,’” it said.

Fortify Rights said the findings were based on 254 interviews of eyewitnesses and survivors, Bangladesh and Myanmar military and police officials, members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — a group that uses basic tools in a declared aim to defend the Rohingya Muslims against the military — analysts, doctors, and aid workers.

The Southeast Asian human rights group named 22 military and police officers who had directly been responsible for the brutal campaign against the Rohingya, calling on the United Nations Security Council to refer them to the International Criminal Court.

Rohingya Muslims previously based in Rakhine were subjected to a campaign of killings, rape, and arson attacks by the military backed by the country’s majority Buddhist extremists in what the UN has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The brutal campaign forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homeland since August 2017 and seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Many of the displaced Rohingya are either living in squalid camps or just across the border in a plot of land known as the “no man’s land.”

William Lacy Swing, the director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said on Tuesday that the refugees, living in makeshift camps in southeast Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, were facing a triple threat of extreme weather, funding shortages, and uncertainty about their future.

The Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.

Their former communities in Myanmar have been razed and Buddhists have been shuttled and settled there in newly-built structures to repopulate the area.

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