KONFRONTASI - Myanmar’s military forces have tortured to death two Rohingya Muslim civilians and arrested scores of others in the country’s state of Rakhine.
Local sources reported on Saturday that the killings had taken place during a series of sporadic raids on a number of villages across northern Buthidaung, adding that many other villagers had also been severely tortured during a day-long siege.
During the raids, at least 300 people from the Muslim minority group were reportedly beaten and detained, of whom 245 people were released later after the extortion of ransom.
Sources said dozens of women had also been molested during the siege and three other women had gone missing.
The Rakhine State, in northern Myanmar, where the Rohingya are concentrated, has been under military siege since October last year, forcing tens of thousands of the members of the minority group to flee to neighboring regions in Kachin State or across the border to Bangladesh.
The latest military crackdown in Rakhine began after a deadly raid on a police post that the government said was carried out by the Rohingya.
International organizations and human rights groups have already blamed security forces for abuses against the Muslim minority in Rakhine, including rape, killings, and the burning of more than 1,000 homes.
There have been numerous eyewitness accounts of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks against the Muslims since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone.
Video footage emerged recently showing officers beating and kicking unarmed Rohingya villagers. The government, which denies any wrongdoing in Rakhine, was forced to detain eight members of the police force.
This screen grab, taken on January 4, 2017 from a YouTube video, shows a policeman (back-C) kicking a Rohingya minority villager seated on the ground with others, in the village of Kotankauk, November 5, 2016. (Via AFP)
The United Nations (UN) has warned that ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingyas in Rakhine could constitute “crimes against humanity.”
Rakhine was the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists before the military siege as well. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from homes to live in squalid camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia since 2012, when Buddhist violence began.
The government denies full citizenship to the 1.1-million-strong Rohingya population, branding them “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. However, the Rohingyas are believed to be a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.
According to the UN, the Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appealed in a letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take prompt action to end the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar.[ptv]