September 19, 2019
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Rohingyas in Myanmar living in 'appalling conditions’, says HRW

By Mratt Kyaw Thu

Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 23 (efe-epa).- The Rohingya population in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is living in “appalling” conditions, while those responsible for the military operations that led to the mass exodus of the Muslim minority group two years ago enjoyed impunity, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

The HRW’s stinging criticism of the Myanmar government comes a day after a failed attempt to repatriate some of the almost 1 million Rohingya refugees who live in precarious conditions in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh but rejected returning citing security and the lack of recognition as Myanmar citizens.

The Myanmar government dismissed the allegations that it was unprepared to have the Rohingyas back, saying some nonprofits and Rohingya leaders were discouraging them to return home.

“Two years since the Myanmar military carried out ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, the government still denies its troops committed any atrocities,” HRW Deputy Asia Dirctor Phil Robertson said in the statement.

“The bulldozing of Rohingya homes to destroy evidence after the ethnic cleansing is emblematic of the government’s campaign to whitewash its crimes,” he added.

Robertson said the Myanmar government had not acted to improve conditions or address the causes underlying the human rights crisis facing Rohingya in Rakhine state.

HRW estimates that more than 500,000 Rohingyas remain in Myanmar's western Rakhine state in "appalling conditions" in villages and displacement camps under close surveillance and where they are denied freedom of movement and given limited access to health and education.

The nonprofit said that Myanmar authorities have not acted to improve the conditions of the mostly Muslim minority nor conducted a proper investigation into the military operations, which have been described as ethnic cleansing and genocide by United Nation observers.

Myanmar’s government rejected responsibility for its part in the failed repatriation attempt on Thursday, blaming Dhaka, the UN’s refugee agency, Rohingya leaders, NGOs and even the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgent group.

“Some Rohingya leaders and NGOs are reportedly discouraging them to return,” a statement from Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“It is learnt that members of ARSA have been using threats and intimidation to prevent the inhabitants of the camps in Cox’s Bazar from taking part in the repatriation process,” it added.

“The Myanmar side repeatedly requested the Bangladesh side to follow the procedures set out in the bilateral agreement,” it said.

The foreign ministry said the agreement required verification forms to be signed by the refugees, who agreed to return voluntarily, which would then be forwarded to Myanmar.

“This procedure was not adhered to,” it said, adding Dhaka also ignored requests for the early repatriation of 444 Myanmar Hindus who have expressed their desire to return to Myanmar.

According to state-run Myanmar News Agency, officials have been stationed at two reception centers “to carry out the most important task of the repatriation process — scrutinizing the returnees to check whether they had been living in Myanmar or not”.

Myanmar’s Minister for Social Welfare Win Myat Aye, who also heads the committee on repatriation and resettlement of displaced people, has also said that his country had “made preparations to keep everything in readiness for repatriation, in accordance with the agreement with Bangladesh”.

On Aug. 25, 2017, the Myanmar military launched an offensive in retaliation for a series of attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group. The crackdown forced more than 740,000 members of the community to flee to Bangladesh.

UN investigators have said that according to the most conservative estimates, around 10,000 Rohingyas, including women and children, were killed, while soldiers allegedly raped women and girls, tortured people and burned entire villages.

The refugees who fled the latest wave of violence joined the 200,000 who were already living in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Myanmar in the past.

In Nov. 2018, authorities in Myanmar and Bangladesh carried out the first failed attempt to repatriate a small number of the refugees.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingyas as citizens, terming them Bangladeshi immigrants and subjecting them to a number of discriminatory practices. EFE-EPA

mk-grc/ia/tw-ssk

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