Rights group alleges extortion, food shortages against Rohingya in Rakhine
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Rights group alleges extortion, food shortages against Rohingya in Rakhine

ROHINGYA  Muslims who have remained in northern Rakhine State in Burma (Myanmar) are being subjected to “dire” food shortages, limited medical aid and extortion by the army, according to a UK-based rights group.

The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) said last week that the Tatmadaw Army are subjecting the handful of remaining Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine to greater restrictions on access to aid, freedom of movement and arbitrary arrest.

“Security forces continue to steal livestock from Rohingya villagers, arbitrary arrests continue and homes are still being destroyed by arson or simply being torn down,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

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“The Rohingya remaining have considerably limited ability to communicate outside their immediate area and are even less capable of communicating with NGOs and International media,” it said. “They are, however, in urgent need of assistance and at great risk of death, disease and prolonged and unnecessary suffering.”

Humanitarian agencies have said more than 671,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Rakhine State into Cox’s Bazar in since Aug 25 last year in response to so-called “clearing operations” by army.

Security forces and Buddhist vigilantes stand accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages amid a campaign described by the UN human rights chief as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.

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The remains of a burned Rohingya village is seen in this aerial photograph near Maungdaw, north of Rakhine State, Myanmar September 27, 2017. Source: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

For those who have remained in Burma the situation has only worsened, according to BHRN. It names villages in eight different areas, still home to thousands of Rohingya households, highlighting the situation in various locations.

In Gutar Pyin, Southern Buthidaung Township, for example, villagers are being prevented from rebuilding damaged homes and are suffering from food shortages despite some assistance from the Red Cross, noted the statement.

Gutar Pyin is allegedly home to a mass grave for which the Burmese government has said it will sue the Associated Press for reporting on.

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BHRN said blocking of essential supplies is part of the Tatmadaw’s decades-old “four cuts” doctrine for fighting insurgents which involves cutting off food, aid, information and recruitment – learnt from British colonial rulers and first implemented by its national armed forces in the 1970s.

This “typically this is carried out against the civilian population, starving them, torturing them, and devastating them to weaken public support for insurgency and denying them recruits and information,” it said.

Each time the strategy is employed it has resulted in “gross human rights violations,” said the group.