Members of a Rohingya militant group allegedly massacred as many as 99 people, including women and children, in Hindu villages in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, according to a new Amnesty International report. In mid-2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) committed "serious human rights abuses... Including unlawful killings and abductions", said the report. At the same time, the ARSA engaged in "scores of clashes with security forces". The Myanmar government has blamed the ARSA for attacking border guards and sparking a violent crackdown which has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.
On August 25, 2017, ARSA militants attacked a Hindu village in Maungdaw and rounded up some 69 men, women, and children, the majority of whom were killed, "execution-style", according to survivors who spoke to Amnesty. "In this brutal and senseless act, members of ARSA captured scores of Hindu women, men, and children and terrorised them before slaughtering them outside their own villages. The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be held to account," CNN quoted Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International, as saying. The ARSA was able to recruit some villagers to help carry out the attack, but the "overwhelming majority of Rohingya did not", Amnesty said in its report, which it based on interviews with survivors and photographic evidence of the scene analysed by the forensic anthropological expert.
Business Standard explains Amnesty International report on how Rohingya militants massacred Hindus:
1. Brandishing guns and swords, Rohingya militants kill Hindu men, women and children: Amnesty International revealed that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) unlawfully killed and abducted Hindu villages in August 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. According to the report, the group is responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children.
“Our latest investigation on the ground sheds much-needed light on the largely under-reported human rights abuses by ARSA during northern Rakhine State’s unspeakably dark recent history,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
“It’s hard to ignore the sheer brutality of ARSA’s actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we’ve spoken to. Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State.”
2. Abducted women spared after they agree to 'convert' to Islam: Amnesty International said that eighth Hindu women and eight of their children were abducted and spared after ARSA militants forced the women to agree to “convert” to Islam. The survivors were forced to flee with the fighters to Bangladesh several days later, before being repatriated to Myanmar in October 2017 with the support of the Bangladeshi and Myanmar authorities.
The men held knives and long iron rods. They tied our hands behind our backs and blindfolded us. I asked what they were doing. One of them replied, ‘You and Rakhine are the same, you have a different religion, you can’t live here. He spoke the [Rohingya] language. They asked what belongings we had, then they beat us. Eventually, I gave them my gold and money.
3. Survivors saw their relatives being killed: Raj Kumari, 18, said, “They slaughtered the men. We were told not to look at them… They had knives. They also had some spades and iron rods. … We hid in the shrubs there and were able to see a little … My uncle, my father, my brother – they were all slaughtered.”
4. ARSA’s other unlawful killings of Hindus: Amnesty International has also documented ARSA’s involvement in other killings and violent attacks against members of other ethnic and religious communities. In August 2017, ARSA members killed six Hindus – two women, a man, and three children – and injured another Hindu woman on the outskirts of Maungdaw town, near Myo Thu Gyi village.
5. Myanmar's security forces may have committed crimes against humanity: Following fatal attacks on the police by Rohingya militants in October 2016, Myanmar authorities launched major security operations in the area. As per Amnesty, these operations, included unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, rape and other sexual violence. Amnesty said that the Myanmar security forces may have committed crimes against humanity. Myanmar has come under international scrutiny since a military campaign launched in August drove more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes in northern Rakhine state and into crowded camps in Bangladesh.
6. Who are Myanmar's militants?
ARSA stands for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. According to CNN, "ARSA says it is fighting on behalf of the million Rohingya living in virtual detention in the western coastal state of Rakhine. They are fighting for freedom of movement, right to education, healthcare, and citizenship."
7. ARSA's operates mainly online: According to Amnesty International, since the Rohingya were forced to flee from northern Rakhine, Arsa’s presence has mainly been online, though the group has been quiet on social media since January. It is not known whether it has plans to mobilise again.
8. Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state. They say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations. But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census.
9. What is being done by the international community?
The UN Security Council appealed to Myanmar to stop the violence but no sanctions have been imposed
The US urged Myanmar's troops to "respect the rule of law, stop the violence and end the displacement of civilians from all communities"
China says the international community "should support the efforts of Myanmar in safeguarding the stability of its national development"
Bangladesh plans to build more shelters in the Cox's Bazaar area but also wants to limit their travel to allocated areas
Myanmar urged displaced people to find refuge in temporary camps set up in Rakhine state. In November Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, but few details have been released
The UK has pledged £59m in aid to support those fleeing to Bangladesh. UK Prime Minister Theresa May also said the military action in Rakhine had to stop. The UK has suspended training courses for the Myanmar military
10. Priyanka Chopra urges world to care for Rohingya refugees: Actress Priyanka Chopra, who is also the global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights, on Tuesday urged her fans and followers to care for and support the Rohingya refugees.
"In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar (Burma). This violence drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh - 60 per cent are children! Many months later they are still highly vulnerable, living in overcrowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong...even worse, when they will get their next meal," Priyanka wrote.
"And as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms...threatening to destroy all that they have built so far. This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight," she added.