ETHNIC CLEANSING, phase two, confronts the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who were victims of a brutal uprooting beginning in August 2017. Myanmar soldiers forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in Rakhine state. The Rohingya fled to tent camps across the border in Bangladesh, frightened and stripped of everything. Now comes a report that Myanmar, also known as Burma, is taking steps to make the exodus irreversible.

On Dec. 18, Reuters published a special report including satellite photos, interviews and a government map showing how authorities in Myanmar, despite promises that the Rohingya could return, are in fact making that increasingly unlikely. Many of the villages were burned at the time of the assault, then bulldozed. New homes are being built and occupied mainly by Buddhists, some from other parts of Rakhine state; the Buddhist majority in Myanmar has long persecuted the Rohingya minority. Reuters discovered that the Myanmar government is building some of the new homes and helping the Buddhist resettlement, spearheaded by nationalists who want to establish a Buddhist majority in the area. Reuters was shown a resettlement map drafted by the government that reveals many returning Rohingya would be housed in several dozen Rohingya-only settlements, isolating them from the rest of the population. It all adds up to a new round of ethnic cleansing, creating permanent facts on the ground to erase the Rohingya presence, also conveniently paving over evidence of the original atrocity.

The Reuters report includes striking satellite photographs showing what has happened to the village of Inn Din, the scene of a massacre of 10 Muslim men during the 2017 offensive, a horror documented earlier by Reuters. The photographs show how the brown-roofed Rohingya homes in the village have been systematically destroyed. Buddhist houses are still standing, and 100 new homes for Buddhists are being built, according to the report. The government’s resettlement map shows that no site for Rohingya is planned in the village, according to Reuters.

Two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were investigating the killing by the security forces of Rohingya villagers, have been unjustly sentenced to prison terms on trumped-up charges by the Myanmar authorities.

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has said the government is pursuing “the voluntary, safe and dignified return” of the Rohingya. But, so far, it is not happening. In November, plans to repatriate about 2,200 collapsed when Rohingya in the camps protested that they would not go unless granted citizenship and allowed back to their original homes. Myanmar wants the refugees to accept National Verification Cards, known as the NVC, a residency document short of citizenship. The Rohingya vehemently oppose the card, saying it depicts them as new arrivals undeserving of citizenship in lands where they were born and have lived for generations.

The latest estimates say more than 900,000 Rohingya are now stuck in Bangladesh, making this one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. They should be allowed to return unhindered and rebuild, but instead, because of wrongheaded thinking by Myanmar, their exodus and suffering threatens to become woefully permanent.

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