Rohingya militants massacred Hindus in last year’s turmoil, rights group says

Hindu women cry near the bodies of their dead family members in Ye Baw Kyaw village, Maungdaw in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state in this September 27, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Rohingya militants massacred Hindus in last year’s turmoil, rights group says

  • Myanmar’s military responded to the insurgent raids with harsh reprisals that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the mainly Buddhist country
  • While Rakhine was home mainly to Buddhists and Muslims before the crisis, it also has a small but longstanding Hindu minority as well as several other smaller ethnic groups

YANGON: Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers during last year’s uprising in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a report that sheds fresh light on the complex ethnic rivalries in the state.
The killings took place on August 25, 2017, the report said, the same day that the Rohingya insurgents staged coordinated deadly raids on police posts that tipped the state into crisis.
Myanmar’s military responded to the insurgent raids with harsh reprisals that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the mainly Buddhist country where they have faced persecution for years.
The UN says the army crackdown amounted to “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, with soldiers and vigilante mobs accused of killing civilians and burning down villages.
But the Rohingya militants have also been accused of abuses.
Those include the mass killing of Hindus in the far north of Rakhine, where the military took reporters — including AFP — to witness the exhumation of putrid bodies from a shallow grave in September.
The militants, known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), denied responsibility at the time.
But Amnesty International said Wednesday that a new investigation had confirmed the group killed 53 Hindus “execution-style” — mostly children — in the Kha Maung Seik village cluster in northern Maungdaw.
“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,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.
Citing interviews with eight survivors, the rights group said dozens of people were rounded up, blindfolded and marched out of town by masked men and Rohingya villagers in plain clothes.
“They slaughtered the men. We were told not to look at them... They had knives. They also had some spades and iron rods,” 18-year-old Raj Kumari told Amnesty.
He said he hid in the bush and watched as his father, brother and uncle were killed.
The report said that in a separate village nearby called Ye Bauk Kyar, 46 Hindu men, women and children disappeared on the same day. It cited information from local Hindus who believe they were killed by ARSA.
While Rakhine was home mainly to Buddhists and Muslims before the crisis, it also has a small but longstanding Hindu minority — many of whom were brought in by British colonizers looking for cheap labor — as well as several other smaller ethnic groups.
“The killers fled to Bangladesh, there are many witnesses but we have not had any justice,” Hindu community leader Ni Maul said from Rakhine state.
“People have less interest in these killings,” he added, compared to reporting on the atrocities against the Rohingya.
Myanmar has faced a flood of international condemnation for the its persecution of the Rohingya, who are stateless and have been targeted by bouts of communal violence.
The government denies any widespread abuses and has accused rights groups of a pro-Rohingya bias, while highlighting the suffering of other ethnic groups swept up in the violence.
“It is important that the international pressure on Myanmar won’t favor ARSA’s actions,” government spokesman Zaw Htay said when asked about the Amnesty report.
But David Mathieson, an independent analyst, said the report should strengthen the argument for Myanmar to allow independent investigations into the crisis.
Authorities have severely restricted media access to the conflict zone and barred UN investigators from entering the country.
“Failing to grant access to humanitarian aid workers and researchers and journalists will continue the official culture of denial, which has zero credibility in the eyes of the world,” he said.


Doctors Without Borders warns of food crisis in southern Ethiopia

Updated 1 min 44 sec ago
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Doctors Without Borders warns of food crisis in southern Ethiopia

  • MSF has treated more than 200 children in the past two weeks for serious malnutrition in Gedeo
  • MSF field coordinator Markus Boening said some parents were arriving at their clinics with children just clinging to life

ADDIS ABABA: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned Thursday that severe malnutrition was gripping parts of southern Ethiopia where ethnic violence has driven nearly a million people from their homes into squalid camps.
MSF has treated more than 200 children in the past two weeks for serious malnutrition in Gedeo, where fresh violence in recent weeks between ethnic minorites has forced families to flee.
MSF field coordinator Markus Boening said some parents were arriving at their clinics with children just clinging to life, suffering from the worst form of malnutrition.
“Many of them arrive much, much too late... we lost some children because of that,” he told AFP, without providing an overall figure for those who have died.
Violence between Ethiopia’s largest minority, the Oromo, and the Gedeo people has plagued the southern Gedeo and West Guji zones since April 2018, shortly after the inauguration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The fighting died down by the end of the year and some of the close to one million people displaced by the conflict began returning to their homes in Gedeo and West Guji, key coffee growing areas.
But an outbreak of fresh violence in March saw families again on the march, many leaving behind their only source of income as they crowded into fetid displacement camps.
“The situation in the camps is pretty dire, from my point of view, in terms of shelter, in terms of water and sanitation,” Boening said.
“It can become quite catastrophic.”
Elected by Ethiopia’s ruling party after more than two years of anti-government unrest, Abiy has announced popular reforms such as ending hostilities with neighboring Eritrea and welcoming banned groups back into the country.
But his first year in office was marred by violence between the Oromo and the Gedeo — among other ethnicities — as 1.8 million people fled their homes in 2018, the highest displacement rate on the planet.
Boening warned that those eking out survival in camps in Ethiopia’s south would encounter fresh hardship when the rainy season began in coming weeks.
“For the betterment of the situation, there’s definitely more help needed,” he said.