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Evidence of Ethnic Cleansing Comes Out of the Blue in Burma

Evidence of Ethnic Cleansing Comes Out of the Blue in Burma

Monday, October 29, 2012
PHUKET: On the ground, confirmation of the ethnic cleansing of unwanted Rohingya from townships in Burma has been difficult. Yet the evidence from the air is unequivocal.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. The accounts of fleeing Rohingya, burned from their homes by attackers, can be verified by satellite.

It's a breakthrough in Burma in assessing the destruction that comes with ethnic cleansing, a breakthrough that the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch achieved this week.

Dramatic before-and-after shots from the sky that reinforced the frantic telephone calls being made by fleeing Rohingya were carried by international news services around the globe.

Parts of Kyauwpyu, once a thriving fishing centre, had clearly been devastated. By the count of Human Rights Watch, hundreds of homes and houseboats had vanished.

''Human Rights Watch has been pioneering the use of satellite technology to document war-time abuses in Syria and other large-scale, on-going human rights violations around the world, so it was natural that we would use this technology to help document the grave situation in Arakan state,'' said HRW Bangkok-based spokesperson Phil Robertson.

''The 'before and after' images of the completely destroyed Muslim majority districts of Kyauwpyu are hard to argue with - and with that, we can demand that the Burma government and its international donors act to address this brutality happening in a remote part of the country.

''The visuals of the satellite photographs have helped the international media - and especially the global TV channels like BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN and others - to explain the story to people who have never even heard of the 'Rohingya' or a place called 'Arakan state.'

''Now the question is what the Burma government will do - will it investigate and hold accountable those responsible for torching this Kyaukpyu community, as well as Muslim communities in other parts of the state, or will it continue to let the problem fester, with human rights abuses unaddressed, Rakhine extremists ascendant, and discriminatory government policies against the Rohingya locked in?''

If just some of the tales emerging from between five and nine villages and townships throughout Rakhine state, also known as Arakan, are true, the push against the Rohingya this week had to be planned and orchestrated.

The deaths of more than 60 people and the destruction of up to 2000 homes and houseboats this week follows the initial violence in June in which 90 were killed and hundreds of homes razed.

''Pressure needs to be applied on the Burmese government to address root causes for the sectarian violence, permit unfettered access to international humanitarians to all communities in Arakan state, and halt the growing de facto segregation between the Rakhine and the Rohingya,'' Mr Robertson said.

''But let's be clear - that satellite technology is not enough. It's a tool, but it does not substitute for on-the-ground, interview by interview research that Human Rights Watch is known for.

''So we will be following up, though I can't really discuss our methodology publicly because of security concerns for our people, and the people we interview.

''Finally, let me add that we had hoped to use this technology back in June, when the original sectarian violence took place in [the state capital] Sittwe and other parts of Arakan state.

''But it was monsoon season - and there was too much cloud cover. You can't argue with Mother Nature, but when she gives us the opportunity, you can be sure we will using this technology again.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Gowon HRW ! Pile on the pressure. I hope you guys are governmentally funded (but I seriously doubt it) because you deserve it by helping to protect all global citizens. From every caring person in the world we thank you and urge you to keep up the excellent work. Let's hope someone with some clout (& sense) is listening. And thank you PW for mercilessly pursuing this and passing on the information to us plebs. I for one certainly won't be booking any holidays in sanction free, "reformed" Burma. Not just yet. And where's the people's heroine in all of this ? Are her hands tied ? Does she not want to offend her largely Buddhist followers ? Worrying. Good luck to all helping fight this horrific ETHNIC CLEANSING !! How can anyone participate in this ?

Posted by James on October 29, 2012 18:22

Editor Comment:

'Merciless' is praise only if your personal culture is all about winners and losers. But thanks anyway. Why do you assume HRW is ''governmentally funded''? Maybe your passion would improve with a little time and research. There is a reason for everything.

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