By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - An extremist group allegedly set Rohingya shops and schools on fire in the Kun Taing village in Myanmar’s Buthidaung township late Thursday, according to a report.
"This is a Muslim village. We have been living here peacefully for generations. We welcome other religious groups in our village. We have never had problems," an elderly Rohingya man, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told the Stateless Rohingya, a website run from Ireland aimed at highlighting the plight of the Rohingya people.
The report included a 35-second video that showed residents trying to douse a blaze. It was not clear whether the blaze seen in the video was at a school or a shop, or whether the footage was authentic.
A government primary school, an Arabic Maktab (school) were completely destroyed and 41 shops belonging to Rohingya were burned, the Stateless Rohingya said.
Buthidaung is now the focal point of fight between Myanmar military and Rakhine’s Arakan Army -- predominantly Buddhist ethnic group fighting for greater autonomy of the region -- the report said, citing concerns of Rohingya experts that "Thursday's fire is used by the military to divide the two communities and divert attention from their human rights abuses on Rakhine civilians during the ongoing clashes with Arakan Army."
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, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
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 report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.