7th February 2017, London, United Kingdom – The Burma Human Rights Network has collected accounts from locals in Northern Rakhine State regarding recent events in Buthidaung, a majority Muslim Rohingya township in close proximity to Maungdaw — where human rights violations were reported regularly since October of 2016. According to Rohingya sources in Northern Rakhine State, Burmese Security Forces began raids early in the morning on January 4th, which Burmese state and independent media have also confirmed. The BHRN has since heard reports of sweeping arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture of Rohingya who were detained and the reported abduction of Rohingya women by Burmese security forces. Worryingly there are unconfirmed reports that the Security forces overtly requested women from different households to be kept as “sex slaves”. The presence of security forces has remained in place up until today with reports emerging of continued raids on Rohingya villages involving extortion and detention of Rohingya villagers.
“The Burmese army has been committing Crimes Against Humanity and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya population since 1978. Disturbingly the current Burmese government is now concealing these crimes and collaborating with the army while the international community has allowed Burma to continually make many excuses. Their latest excuse is that Burma is under Democratic reforms and Burma needs time and space to resolve their issues internally. In doing this international community is, in reality, allowing Burma to eliminate the Rohingya population from the country. Delaying from taking effective action will cost dearly for the already severely persecuted Rohingya population. The international community must urgently consider establishing a United Nation Commission of Inquiry,” Said Kyaw Win, Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network.
On January 4th security forces were said to have surrounded Maung Gyi, Taung and Darbine Saya villages and moved in claiming they were searching for militants from the al Yaqeen group. Local sources said that a few days prior to the raids some local men were returning from Bangladesh, where they worked as day laborers, and they had a disagreement with village authorities that they said were trying to extort money from them. The disagreement reportedly resulted in accusations the men were involved with the militants. Reports indicated that men in these villagers were told to come out of their homes and were then gathered and beaten. Sources say that several men were detained, including a primary school teacher. Multiple unrelated people from Da Paing Saya with the same name were also arrested and later all but one were released, indicating authorities may have been searching for a particular person but had little information about him. In Maung Gyi Taung village several men were detained and released but four men remained in custody and their arrest and detention was confirmed by the State Counsellor’s Information Committee’s Facebook page. The men were said to have been found with crude homemade guns, which were shown in a photograph in the same post. Villagers familiar with the men have argued they were not militants and have no ties to any militant group. Another villager suggested to BHRN that the areas in Buthidaung where the army raided were very unlikely places for militants to be hiding as they are too close to military barracks.
At this same time there were many account of soldiers requesting women from villagers who were said to have refused. The BHRN has obtained the names of two women believed to have been raped in their homes in Maung Gyi, Taung on the 8th of January. Local sources, independent of each other, have corroborated the names of the victims. The BHRN has not been able to contact these women or substantiate these claims as contact into Maungdaw has been severely limited with residents in the most affected areas turning off and hiding their phones while security forces are present. However, given their serious nature of the allegations we believe further investigation is desperately needed and will coordinate within the best of our ability with INGOs and Journalists who are able to access these areas.
The situation appeared to ease in the following weeks but villagers said on January 16th the body of a 60 year old Imam was returned to his family following his death in custody after being arrested on January 13th. The death was dismissed as a complication of asthma, which has recently been given as cause of death by authorities of other Rohingya men who died in similar circumstances in Maungdaw as well.
As of January 30th reports continue to emerge of security forces raiding, beating and extorting money from Rohingya in Buthidaung. Unconfirmed video has also emerged appearing to show Myanmar soldiers stealing chickens and ducks from Rohingya property, which they have been widely accused of doing for the past several months.
Notes for Editors
Background on Current Situation:
Several Townships in Northern Rakhine State have been under curfew with a heavy presence of security forces since October 9th, when a Militant group ambushed 3 police border posts and killed several officers. Since October small skirmishes have continued to occur in the Township of Maungdaw and Burmese Security forces have been accused of several severe human rights violations during this time. While Buthidaung is in close proximity to Maungdaw, no militant activity has been known to take place there.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Members of The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) are available for comment and interview.
Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
T: +44(0) 740 345 2378