More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from brutal military operations in Myanmar are stuck in Bangladesh, with returns to Myanmar unlikely soon and Bangladeshi goodwill being tested. In Myanmar, international partners must be allowed access to northern Rakhine State. In Bangladesh, donors must help both refugees and their local hosts.
March 30 marked the second anniversary since the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi took office in Myanmar, an event marked by domestic and international jubilation after decades of struggle for democracy. But today, two years later, the view of much of the international community toward the Myanmar government has pivoted to near-pariah status after ruthless military operations prompted nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees to flee vicious abuses following an attack by Rohingya militants on August 25, 2017.
Sexual violence – particularly against women and girls – is a feature of everyday life in Myanmar, with sexual violence committed in the context of long-running armed conflicts and attacks against civilian populations being a particularly brutal aspect of this violence. However, investigations and accountability of those responsible is almost non-existent and survivors often face insurmountable barriers to justice. REDRESS and the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI) have produced a guide to assist practitioners gather evidence of conflict and atrocity-related sexual violence in Myanmar.
Six months after the start of a brutal military campaign which forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men and children from their homes and left hundreds of Rohingya villages burned the ground, Myanmar’s authorities are remaking northern Rakhine State in their absence. Based on in-depth analysis of satellite imagery; a review of recent photographs and videos showing destruction in specific Rohingya villages; and interviews with Rohingya in northern Rakhine State and across the border in Bangladesh, as well as with activists and other experts, this briefing sheds light on the ongoing efforts to rebuild and reshape northern Rakhine State.
Five months after the Myanmar military unleashed a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State, the security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations against those who remained through the most acute violence. Instead of terrorizing the population through killings, rapes, and the widespread burning of Rohingya villages, security forces are today using mainly quieter and more subtle measures to squeeze people out, making life so intolerable that they have little option other than to leave.
We are examining DFID’s work in Bangladesh and Burma. This Report is the first output from that inquiry. It focuses on the culmination of decades of marginalisation and abuse of the Rohingya people of Rakhine State in northern Burma. This took the form of a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by the Burmese security forces over the latter half of 2017 causing the flight of over 650,500 Rohingya people into Bangladesh.
On the morning of August 30, 2017, hundreds of uniformed Burmese soldiers arrived in the village of Tula Toli, in northern Rakhine State, where they carried out a brutal and systematic attack of killings, rape, and arson against the Rohingya Muslim villagers. The massacre at Tula Toli came days after coordinated attacks on police posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Following those attacks, the Burmese military launched a largescale campaign of ethnic cleansing, forcing more than 645,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh.
Massacre by the River details the Burmese army’s attack on Tula Toli, based on in-depth interviews with 18 Rohingya survivors conducted in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The report reveals strong evidence of military planning: soldiers rapidly confined villagers on the riverbank, separated men and women, executed the men, and rounded-up groups of women and girls in nearby houses to be raped and killed. Analysis of satellite imagery confirms the village was completely destroyed by arson. The documented abuses contribute to Human Rights Watch’s conclusion that the Burmese military’s atrocities against Rohingya amount to crimes against humanity.
The mass flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State has created a humanitarian catastrophe and serious security risks, including potential cross-border militant attacks. The international community should press the Myanmar government to urgently implement the Annan commission’s proposals, including as regards discrimination, segregation and citizenship.
As we enter 2018, Myanmar continues to face significant humanitarian challenges related to the recent crisis in Rakhine, large-scale displacement, food insecurity, protracted problems of statelessness and discrimination, ongoing armed conflict in some parts of the country, inter-communal tensions and vulnerability to natural disasters. The situation is particularly serious in Rakhine State, where the humanitarian crisis deepened in 2017. Armed attacks on police posts and subsequent security operations by Government forces led to mass displacement, with over 600,000 people – mostly Muslims who self identify as ‘Rohingya’ – seeking refuge across the border in Bangladesh and many others being internally displaced.
The situation for Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has deteriorated dramatically since August 2017, when the military unleashed a brutal campaign of violence against the population living in the northern parts of Rakhine State, where the majority of Rohingya normally live. This report maps in detail the violations, in particular discrimination and racially-based restrictions in law, policy and practice that Rohingya living in Rakhine State have faced for decades, and how these have intensified since 2012, following waves of violence between Muslims and Buddhists, often supported by security forces.