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Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security and aid for the Rohingyas and Arakanese in the Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this weekend.
New satellite imagery obtained by HRW showed extensive destruction of homes and other property in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area of the coastal town of Kyauk Pyu – one of several areas of new violence and displacement, it said.
Human Rights Watch said it identified 811 destroyed structures on the eastern coastal edge of Kyauk Pyu following arson attacks reportedly conducted on Oct. 24, less than 24 hours before the satellite images were captured. The area of destruction measures 35 acres and included 633 buildings and 178 houseboats and floating barges adjacent on the water, all of which were razed, it said in a press statement.
It said there are no indications of fire damage to the immediate west and east of this zone of destruction. Media accounts and local officials said that many Rohingya in the town fled by sea toward Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, 200 kilometers to the north.
Violence renewed between Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims on Oct. 21 and continued all week in at least five townships: Minbya, Mrak-U, Myebon, Rathedaung, and Kyauk Pyu. This was the first time violence had reached Kyauk Pyu and most of these other parts of the state since the sectarian violence and related abuses by state security forces against the Rohingya began in early June. The Rohingya have suffered the brunt of the violence, said HRW.
“Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan State, who are under vicious attack,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless the authorities also start addressing the root causes of the violence, it is only likely to get worse.”
The Burmese government initially said that more than 2,800 houses were burned down in the new violence and that 112 people were killed, an estimate it later reduced to 64. Human Rights Watch said it feared the death toll is far higher based on allegations from witnesses fleeing scenes of carnage and the government’s history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state.
Prior to this most recent outbreak of violence, the local Arakan Buddhist population had largely resumed life and daily activities as usual, said HRW.
The approximately 75,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), most of them Rohingya, were still taking shelter in at least 40 IDP camps in Sittwe and Kyauktaw townships. The 15 largest camps surround Sittwe.
Sittwe’s estimated population of 200,000 people had been divided evenly between Buddhists and Muslims. Now the Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslim population of Sittwe has been largely segregated to the IDP camps, and Sittwe is nearly devoid of Muslims, said HRW.
The Burmese government denies citizenship to most Rohingya and the normal rights accorded to citizens.