By Havva Kara Aydin
ANKARA (AA) - Around 200 homes and other buildings were destroyed by fire earlier this month in a mostly deserted village in Myanmar’s embattled Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday, noting an impartial investigation should be urgently conducted to determine who is responsible.
On May 16, an environmental satellite detected extensive fires burning in Let Kar, while satellite imagery recorded on May 18 showed that approximately 70% of the village had been destroyed.
Its population of mainly ethnic Rakhine Buddhists had fled more than a year earlier, said HRW.
Since January 2019, clashes between Myanmar’s military and Arakan Army insurgents fighting for greater autonomy of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists have left many dead and forced thousands to flee their homes.
“The burning of Let Kar village has all the hallmarks of Myanmar military arson on Rohingya villages in recent years,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
“A credible and impartial investigation is urgently needed to find out what happened, punish those responsible, and provide compensation to villagers harmed.”
An aid worker from the town of Mrauk-U said he saw columns of smoke coming from the direction of Let Kar that day, according to HRW.
“There was no one living there after the fighting last year as [the residents] had fled, but the older people really have nowhere to go now,” he said.
Most of the residents had been sheltering in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Tein Myo and Bu Ywat Ma Nyo villages and had at least been able to go home to collect their belongings from time to time, but they are now left with nothing, he added.
- Persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.
As many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.