YANGON (AFP) – Satellite imagery shows Myanmar authorities have bulldozed at least 55 Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine in recent months, Human Rights Watch said Friday, condemning the government for erasing evidence at sites where troops are accused of atrocities.
Northern Rakhine has been nearly emptied of its Rohingya population since last August, when a military crackdown drove some 700,000 of the persecuted group across the border to Bangladesh.
The UN has accused Myanmar of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Muslim minority, who face acute discrimination in the mainly Buddhist nation.
Myanmar denies the charge but has blocked UN investigators from investigating an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed.
Hundreds of Rohingya villages were already damaged by fire during the initial months of violence last year, when soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes terrorised communities with arson, gunfire and rape, according to refugees.
Since November Myanmar authorities have further demolished at least 55 villages with heavy machinery, clearing out all structures and vegetation, satellite images obtained by Human Rights Watch showed.
At least two of the flattened villages were previously undamaged by fires, the watchdog said.
“Many of these villages were scenes of atrocities against Rohingya and should be preserved so that the experts appointed by the UN to document these abuses can properly evaluate the evidence to identify those responsible,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.