Last month, nine Burmese policemen were killed in what is thought to have been a retaliatory attack by the Rohingya. Burmese politicians, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now Burma's de facto head of state, have rhetorically tried to tie violence perpetrated by the Muslim-majority Rohingya to extremism. They also insist that Rohingyas be referred to as Bengali so as to punctuate their supposedly foreign origin across the border in Bangladesh.
There are roughly 1 million Rohingya in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. More than 100,000 live in squalid displacement camps, where they are susceptible to hunger, as well as continued attacks. A village schoolteacher in Rakhine state told the Associated Press that many more Rohingya were hiding in forests due to the scorched earth campaign by the military.
“Since the violence last month, villagers have been accused of burning their own houses. Villagers are hiding in the forest. No one dares to live in their own house because of the arrests and killing,” said the teacher.
Below are before and after satellite images from Human Rights Watch of two of the villages burned in the past three weeks.
“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims.”
Suu Kyi's party was elected this year after more than 50 years of military dictatorship, but she has not been able to stop the military from carrying out a violent clampdown against the Rohingya.
In an interview with The Washington Post last month, Suu Kyi said that there was video evidence that some Rohingya were influenced by Islamic militants, and adopted the language of security and harmony to justify the military's response.
“Things take time,” she said. “The situation in the Rakhine is a legacy of many, many decades of problems. It is not something that happened overnight. We’re not going to be able to resolve it overnight. It goes back even to the last century.”