Rohingya ‘genocide intensifying’ as war rages in Myanmar’s Rakhine: BROUK

Warning from rights group comes as fighting between Myanmar’s military and Arakan Army traps Rohingya in the western state.

People are seen on Myanmar side, during ongoing conflict in Rakhine state of Myanmar, in Teknaf area of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, June 24, 2024.
People can be seen on the Myanmar side of the border, during the continuing conflict in Rakhine State, in the Teknaf area of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on June 24, 2024 [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/ Reuters]

A United Kingdom-based rights group has called for global action over what it called an “intensifying genocide” against Myanmar’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority as fighting between the Southeast Asian country’s military and a powerful ethnic armed group escalated in the western Rakhine State.

The warning from the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) on Tuesday came as the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) condemned the looting and burning of its food stores and warehouse in Maungdaw, a coastal town on Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh that is mainly home to the Rohingya and is the focus of the current hostilities between the military and the Arakan Army (AA).

The AA represents Rakhine’s Buddhist majority and is fighting for autonomy for the region.

It issued evacuation orders for Maungdaw late on June 17 ahead of a planned offensive, leaving tens of thousands of Rohingya residents of the town with “nowhere to flee”, according to the UN’s human rights chief.

The Rohingya, considered outsiders by the military as well as many of Rakhine’s Buddhist residents, have long suffered persecution in Myanmar, including a brutal military offensive that drove some 750,000 members of the community into Bangladesh in 2017.

The crackdown is now the subject of a genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

BROUK, in its new report, said the 600,000 Rohingya who remain in Rakhine are facing increased persecution after fighting between the military and the AA resumed last October. The military, which seized power in a February 2021 coup, is subjecting Rohingya in areas under their control to a “slow death” by depriving them of resources indispensable for survival – including food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care – and also forcibly recruiting members of the community, including children, and sending them to the front lines to fight against the AA, it said.

Both the military and the AA have committed war crimes against the Rohingya, BROUK said, including “murder, torture, cruel treatment, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, rape, taking hostages, conscripting and using children, pillaging, and deliberately attacking civilians”.

“Rohingya remaining in Rakhine State face either a fast death being killed by the Myanmar military or Arakan Army, or a slow death as a result of being systematically deprived of the basic necessities of life,” said Tun Khin, president of BROUK. “We are witnessing another significant increase in violence against the Rohingya and once again the UN Security Council looks on and does nothing.”

The international community’s failure to protect the Rohingya has resulted in “hundreds, if not several thousands” of deaths in the past six months alone, BROUK said.

Global inaction

Additionally, some 200,000 Rohingya who are internally displaced are now in dire need of humanitarian aid to prevent further loss of life, the rights group said, while an additional 11,000 members of the community – about half of them children – are trapped near Rakhine’s capital, Sittwe, surrounded by landmines and unable to flee as the fighting edges closer to the city.

BROUK warned that the international community could not afford to fail the Rohingya again, saying that authorities in Myanmar had failed to act on the ICJ’s order in 2020 to avoid acts against the minority population that could constitute genocide.

The group called for an open meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the military’s “repeated breaches” of the ICJ’s orders as well as action to end what it called a “cycle of impunity” in the country, including by a referral to the International Criminal Court or the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal.

“For the past 12 years, by repeatedly failing to take action to prevent violations of international law against the Rohingya, the UN Security Council has been sending a message to authoritarian regimes worldwide that they can get away with attempting to wipe out minorities they don’t like,” Tun Khin said.

“The Rohingya genocide was not inevitable, it was allowed to happen and is still being allowed to happen,” he added.

The renewed fighting between the military and the AA has forced some 45,000 Rohingya in Maungdaw and neighbouring Buthidaung township to flee to the Bangladesh border, the UN rights office said in May. The displacement came amid reports of widespread arson of Rohingya villages in Buthidaung, with survivors accusing the AA of carrying out the attacks in retaliation for alleged Rohingya support for the military.

The UN rights office said it had also documented at least four cases of beheadings by the AA.

The WFP on Tuesday said the fighting had cut off its access to its warehouse in Maungdaw since late May.

And on Saturday, the food supplies there were looted and the building burned down, it said.

The warehouse was holding 1,175 tonnes of food and supplies – enough emergency food to sustain 64,000 people for one month.

The UN food agency did not name the perpetrators but said it was continuing to gather details of the circumstances surrounding the incident.

It added, “The WFP calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to ensure that humanitarian facilities and assets are respected and protected, and safe and secure access is provided for the delivery of vital assistance to those in urgent need.”

Source: Al Jazeera