Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Rohingya Reprisals

Clashes between Myanmar's army and the Rohingya have intensified, with thousands leaving the area. On Saturday, Myanmar soldiers reportedly opened fire on Rohingya villagers who were fleeing the clashes. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow humanitarian access to people impacted by recent clashes in Myanmar's Rakhine state. The communal conflict has taken a violent turn with reports of a fast-growing radicalization among Rohingya Muslims.  Myanmar's military has been launching counterterrorism operations against insurgents. Human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, said these operations involved arbitrary killings, systematic rapes, the burning of houses and forced expulsions of locals.

"Many of those fleeing are women and children, some of whom are wounded," Guterres' spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement. On Saturday, Myanmar soldiers opened fire on Rohingya villagers who were fleeing the clashes.

According to the United Nations, around 87,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh following the start of the latest crisis in October. Bangladeshi authorities have taken a hard line with Rohingya refugees, attempting to limit their numbers in their country. Around 400,000 Rohingya currently live in Bangladesh, which has said it would not allow new refugees to enter.

Around 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya currently living in mainly Buddhist Myanmar have been denied citizenship and are classified as illegal immigrants. The communities, which claim roots that go back for hundreds of years, are marginalized and subjected to violence. About 10 percent of the world's stateless people live in Myanmar and Rohingyas make up the single largest stateless community in the world.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate praised security forces and dismissed accusations of atrocities carried out against the Rohingya. She has also denied visas to UN officials tasked with investigating the allegations. Aung San Suu Kyi has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing against the minority Rohingya communities. Suu Kyi said it was "too strong an expression" for what was happening.

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