Myanmar bulldozing scores of Rohingya villages, Human Rights Watch says

Myanmar bulldozing scores of Rohingya villages, Human Rights Watch says

Many other Rohingya alleged the government was destroying whatever little is left of their culture to make it impossible for them to return to Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch says the number of villages wrecked is at least 55.

Rohingya people who were forced into exile also fear the operation is aimed at preventing them from returning to their villages and at destroying the remnants of their cultural heritage.

And deliberately demolishing villages to destroy evidence of grave crimes is obstruction of justice, it said as rights bodies demand referring Myanmar's atrocities to the International Criminal Court.

Human Right Watch said it could not independently verify if the houses were occupied at the time.

The military response to the August attacks pushed 688,000 people across the border into Bangladesh, many of them recounting killings, rape and arson by Myanmar soldiers and police.

Around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh since August past year when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 25 police and army posts, killing a dozen security officials.

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First, their villages were burned to the ground.

The Myanmar government earlier claimed bulldozing of villages is part of a plan to rebuild villages so that the refugees can live in their place of origin or nearest to their place of origin when they go back under a repatriation deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

So far, Myanmar has refused to allow United Nations investigators from conducting an worldwide probe into the mass graves reported by global press agencies and denounced by human rights organizations. The latest crisis in Rakhine state began in August after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of unprecedented attacks on security posts.

Myanmar state media reported in January that eight excavators and four bulldozers were working in the area. The camp opened last month to house returning refugees, but none have. They are viewed by the local authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have been living in the region for decades, if not centuries.

The conference will be joined by worldwide scholars, human rights activists and Rohingya lobbyists based outside of Myanmar. The HRW has also said that these settlements should be preserved as "crime scenes". Doctors Without Borders estimates that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed, including 730 children, in the first month of Myanmar forces' crackdown after August 25 previous year.

"Government and allied forces, including Russian Federation, carried out indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects using aerial and artillery bombing, including with chemical and other internationally banned weapons, killing and injuring hundreds", Amnesty's report says. In a report, United Nations investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Chased from their homes and communities, the Rohingya are a people cast adrift, trapped in limbo and deprived of their basic rights, while facing fresh threats to their health and lives, the report states.

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