By Aman Ullah
Dr. Habib Siddiqui in his article ‘The last crisis in Arakan’ that published in the October 16th issue of Asian Tribune writes that, “The situation inside the Rohingya villages in north-western Arakan state of Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh, is dire. Another genocidal campaign has been launched by the government. As we have seen before with the previous military regimes, the new government of Aung San Suu Kyi has its version of justification for its heavy handed treatment of the minority Muslims.”
Sixteen Rohingya Organizations in their joint Statement of 16th October also stated that, “Since 9 October, under the pretext of looking for attackers, the Myanmar military and police forces have been indiscriminately killing the Rohingya, torching and plundering their homes and villages. Two mass graves were found and about 100 Rohingya civilians were extra-judicially killed that included old men, women and children. At least 5 Rohingya villages were set ablaze destroying many houses or whole villages.
The grave situation has caused many Rohingya to flee their villages. An estimated 5000 Rohingya have been internally displaced causing great humanitarian disaster. Due to curfew order and blockade, there is an acute shortage of food, medicine, and other essentials. The situation is exponentially worsening. It is a violation of international law and Geneva Convention.”
A statement from the office of Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw blamed the little-known “Aqamul Mujahidin” for the attacks around Maungdaw Township, a mainly Muslim area near the frontier with Bangladesh. “They persuade the young people using religious extremism, and they have financial support from outside,” said the Burmese language statement.
Shortly after the attack, military moved in and cordoned off the towns and started its cleansing of one village after another. Activists claim the military is using the search for the attackers as a pretext for a crackdown on the Rohingya, whom rights groups describe as one of the world’s most persecuted peoples.
Reports of the latest attacks against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar may signal a new phase in the “genocidal situation”, researchers at London’s Queen Mary University have said.
Credible reports are emerging of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and raids on Rohingya homes by Myanmar security forces, researchers at the college’s International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) said.
As of last Thursday, October 13, an estimated 52 Rohingyas were shot dead and at least 100 Rohingyas were wounded very badly and more than 150 Rohingya peoples were arbitrary arrested including men and women by the Military and police forces; 84 Rohingyas were missing. As we have seen many times, the military also raped three Rohingya women inside their homes. At least three villages have been completely burnt down by the Myanmar military, making their residents homeless. Afraid of being shot dead by the feared army, many Rohingyas are also fleeing their homes. Many shops have been looted and gutted, and at least one mosque burnt down on 11 October, 2016 in Maungdaw by the military, police forces and the 969 Buddhist fascist groups.
On October 14, after 12:00 a.m., some military personnel along with some Rakhine Buddhist civilians raided the market in the Ngakura village tract. They looted all the goods that they found. In the early morning, the military personnel called all the shopkeepers and asked them to shift their goods from their shops to other places wherever they wanted. As the shopkeepers came to their shops to shift their goods, they found no goods inside their shops and all the doors were broken.
At about 10 am, military personnel entered the village tract of Kyet Yoe Pyin and set fire to the whole hamlet, Lu Pann Pyin. Then they set fire to another hamlet called Ywar Ma. Some of the women from there who couldn’t find a way to escape were shot dead while they were hiding inside their houses. They were left in homes and the military later set fire to them. It is estimated that nearly 500 houses are said to have been burnt down in both of these above mentioned hamlets.
At 11 am, some military personnel entered Zedi Pyin hamlet of Laung Don Village tract where they broke walls and other properties of the home of Sayid Amin. They ordered the nearby villagers to pack their belongings, their homes and move someplace else. Whilst on their way back they arrested Anam Ullah, a mentally disabled nephew of Sayid Amin. They took him to the Rakhine village of Laung Don Village tract where he was severely tortured and then was released as he was recognized as having mental problems at the end. As the military personnel ordered they moved to nearby villages but they think that their village will be burnt down as well in their absence.
In Laung Don Village tract, the military personnel were still said to have been roaming as of at 1 a.m., October the 15th.
On October 14, at 10 a.m., some military personnel raided Aung Sit Pyin village tract and arrested 6 Rohingyas. Days earlier on October 11, 5 Rohingyas from the Say Tha Ma Gyi village were asked to report to Pan Lin Pyin military outpost. Upon arrival, they were then beaten by forces from Battalion 263, led by Lt. Col. Hlaing Min Htet.
The military arrested 15 innocent Rohingya civilians including five children from Pha Wet Chaung village and they were later killed. “The military raids our village [Pha Wet Chaung]. They arrested 15 villagers including 5 children. Military took them with a truck to NaTaLa village. Later they all were slaughtered.” a Rohingya told RB News over the phone.
Kyet Yoe Pyin village has been under attack by the military since Wednesday. As of Thursday, 162 houses have been burnt down into ashes and a market where more than 150 Rohingya shops run businesses have also been burnt to the ground.
Pyaung Pyaik hamlet located in Nga Sa Kyu village was raided by the military. Before torching the houses, the military and NaTaLa villagers looted valuable things and cattle. They then torched 40 houses. Later in the evening more than 100 houses were burnt down. The military shot dead an elderly woman while torching the houses and they threw her into the fire.
Some children and elderly were blocked inside their houses before they were set ablaze. They couldn’t escape from fire and many have reportedly died inside the houses.
According to the RB News, on Thursday at 2 p.m. the military entered Tha Wun Chaung village and checked the household registration and count the heads house by house. They found a man who isn’t from that village. The man was taken by the military and later at 6 p.m. released. After 6 p.m. the military entered into Sabai Gone and Laung Dun Rohingya villages and set the houses on fire. An elder said “Many elderly, pregnant women, children are where the military are torching the houses. I am worried for them. I don’t know whether they are dead or alive. Now what I am seeing is this government is implementing the plan of the then president Thein Sein which Rohingyas will be kept in the camps and sent to third countries.”
According to the villagers, five helicopters were flying over villages for long hours. They said the military used launchers to kill innocent civilians.
Reports of killings and mass arrests have spread like wildfire on social media, stoking fear amongst the Rohingya, who remain the most persecuted people in our planet.
Authorities have extended a regional curfew to between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., while local education Chief Khin Aung said about 400 schools have been closed for the next two weeks.
“Villagers tell us they are scared. Some witnessed killings by the army yesterday,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights, a non-profit human rights organization.
Fortify Rights has received reports of possible extrajudicial killings of Rohingya men in Maungdaw Township by Myanmar Army soldiers following the attacks on the police and called on the government, state security forces, and all parties in Rakhine State to respect human rights and uphold the responsibility to protect civilians.
According to information received by Fortify Rights, scores of Myanmar Army soldiers arrived in Myothugyi village, Maungdaw Township at approximately 6:30 a.m. on October 10. Fortify Rights received information of at least three killings of unarmed Rohingya men [Nagu (50), Noor Allam (55) and Noor Bashar (25)] in Myothugyi village on October 10 by military men.
“They took three men…and killed them,” a Rohingya man in Myothugyi said. “They did not arrest the people, they just killed them.”
The New York Times and Reuters reported allegations of seven deaths in Myothugyi village on October 10. Both outlets reported witnesses alleging that army soldiers shot at Rohingya as they ran away.
“This is a very serious situation unfolding there. The government of Myanmar has commenced with what appears to be a very brutal crackdown, we’re documenting allegations of extrajudicial killings.” “Essentially the Myanmar Army is moving into villages, suspecting all of the men and boys of being involved with this rather small group of armed men and committing a variety of human rights violations,” Smith added.
Northern Rakhine state is “in effect an information black hole, and in situations where allegations of human rights violations are difficult or impossible to independently verify – because of state restrictive practices – the onus must be on the state to investigate or disprove those allegations”, Penny Green, Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London and Director of ISCI, said.
In Maungdaw Township in accordance with 2014 census there was 480,000 Muslim and 27,000 Rakhine and other non-Muslim population. According to Presidential Office Press Release, about 400 men planned and attacked to the 3 Border Guard Police Stations. Now Burmese army is going to give collective punishment to the more than 400 hundred thousand Rohingya for the 400 so-called attackers.
It is worth noting here that the use of lethal force by state security forces against a civilian is only lawful when necessary to prevent loss of life and serious injury and when proportionate to the threat at hand. The U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials stipulates that the “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.” The U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials requires officials to “use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.”
In situations of armed conflict, Article 42 of the Third Geneva Convention stipulates that the use of force “against those who are escaping or attempting to escape, shall constitute an extreme measure, which shall always be preceded by warnings appropriate to the circumstances.”
In all situations, under international humanitarian and human rights law, the authorities have a responsibility to protect civilians. But now, instead of protecting the civilians, the authority by itself conducting the act of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and raids on Rohingya homes indiscriminately, which are tantamount to acts the of terrorism, state terrorism. State terrorism refers to act of terrorism conducted by a state against foreign targets or its own people. These are terror employed by tyrants against their subjects as Aristotle once wrote.
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary- General, in a UN press conference of 2009, stated that, “time to set aside debates on so-called ‘state terrorism’. The use of force by states is already regulated under international law”. “…regardless of the differences between governments on the question of definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is any deliberate attack on innocent civilians [or non-combatants], regardless of one’s cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism.”