THE Burmese authorities had orchestrated a genocidal campaign to drive out Rohingya civilians in the weeks and months before militants launched an attack on police on Aug 25 that sparked wide-scale violence, a human rights group said on Thursday.
In a new report, Fortify Rights said the authorities made “extensive and systematic preparations” for the attacks on the stateless minority group, with “reasonable grounds” for 22 Army and police officials to be criminally investigated for their roles in the atrocities.
The 160-page report, ‘They Gave Them Long Swords: Preparations for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar (Burma),’ took testimonies from 254 survivors, officials and workers over a 21-month period.
The group detailed Burmese security forces committing alleged mass killings, rape, and arson attacks against Rohingya in Maungdaw Township in October and November 2016.
The report found at the involvement of at least 27 Burmese Army battalions of 11,000 soldiers, and at least three combat police battalions, comprising an estimated 900 police personnel, in a series of attacks that began on Aug 2017.
“Genocide doesn’t happen spontaneously,” Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights, said in a statement.
“Impunity for these crimes will pave the path for more violations and attacks in the future. The world can’t sit idly by and watch another genocide unfold, but right now, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
The rights group said the failure of the international community in responding to the attacks had allowed the Burmese authorities to make preparations to commit another attack that extended throughout all three townships of northern Rakhine State—Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung.
The group claims the Burmese forces “disarmed” Rohingya civilians by systematically collecting sharp or blunt objects from them.
“They came and took all the knives away,” a 50-year-old survivor known as “Rahana” said.
Other witnesses told the Fortify rights that the military trained and armed local non-Rohingya ethnic citizens in northern Rakhine State, and tore down fencing and other structures around Rohingya homes, providing attackers with a greater line-of-sight on civilians.
Burmese authorities provided weapons—firearms and swords—and quasi-military training to non-Rohingya citizens in northern Rakhine State months and, in some cases, immediately prior to attacks on Rohingya, the group said.
“They gave them long swords,” a 25-year-old Rohingya eyewitness to an Army-led massacre in Tula Toli—also known as Min Gyi—in Maungdaw Township on Aug 30, 2017.
The Rohingya civilians were also deprived of food and other lifesaving aid in a bid to physically weaken them, the group said, adding the government deployed “unnecessarily” high numbers of state-security forces to northern Rakhine State during the height of the crisis.
Fortify rights also said the authorities committed human rights violations against Rohingya civilians, including imposing discriminatory curfews and other violations prior to attacks.