Myanmar army fires on Rohingya villages in Rakhine region
The government of Myanmar (Burma) has admitted firing on villages occupied by the Rohingya Muslim minority with helicopter gunships.
State media say two soldiers and six attackers died in clashes after an ambush on troops, which led to air support being called in.
There are reports of villages burning in the northern region of Rakhine.
Photos released by Human Rights Watch seem to show charred villages, with the group reporting 430 burnt buildings.
The satellite photos were taken between 22 October and 10 November, following reports of fighting and civilians fleeing last month.
Rohingya activists say the government is trying systematically to drive the Muslim minority from their villages.
Attacking the Rohingya is a popular move for the military, the BBC’s Jonah Fisher reports from Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.
They are disliked by many, if not most, Burmese who consider them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, our correspondent says.
The latest outbreak in fighting was triggered by an attack on three police checkpoints just over a month ago.
The Burmese government is not allowing independent journalists into Rakhine, so it is impossible to verify claims about the scale of the fighting.
According to the latest official statement on Saturday, troops were ambushed and then clashed several times with armed men, presumably Rohingya Muslims, equipped with guns, knives and spears.
At one point, when faced by about 500 men, the soldiers called in air support and two helicopter gunships fired on the Rohingya village.
Casualty figures vary widely, our correspondent says.
Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the new photos showed “widespread destruction” that was “greater than we first thought”.
“Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims,” he said.
The government – led by Aung San Suu Kyi – talks of “clearance operations” as part of the search for the attackers.
Violence Escalates Between Myanmar Forces and Rohingya
SITTWE, Myanmar — Violence between a persecuted Muslim population and Myanmar security forces escalated over the weekend as two soldiers were killed by crudely armed attackers, according to government officials and Muslim residents. In retaliation, troops of the Buddhist-majority government burned villages deep in the forest.
The remote enclave of northern Rakhine State close to the Bangladesh border has been under siege since the government sent security forces to hunt for what it says were armed Rohingya assailants who killed nine police officers at three outposts in early October.
Since then, human rights groups have received reports of killings of unarmed Rohingya men by Myanmar soldiers; rapes in a number of villages of Rohingya women by soldiers; and beatings of Rohingya men held in detention in the town of Maungdaw. At least 30 Rohingya civilians, and possibly as many as 100, may have been killed, the groups say.
Tags: Aung San Suu Kyi, Bangladesh, Buddhist-majority government, Burma, Human Rights Watch, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Maungdaw, Muslim, Myanmar, Myanmar Forces and Rohingya, Rakhine, Rohingya, Rohingya Muslim minority, Rohingya villages, United Nations