A combo of satellite images released by Digital Globe on 2 December, 2017 and 19 February, 2018 confirms the government of Myanmar is destroying every trace of evidence left in Thit Tone Nar Gwa Son village, a predominantly Muslim community about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Maungdaw, Rakhine state, where mass atrocities were committed.
Rohingya village and hamlets were first attacked and burnt down, with high level of rape and murder cases reported. Now the authorities have decided to obliterate every memory of the crime in their record books.
According to a report from AP, the demolitions are far more than earlier reported in the media.
In its defense, Myanmar’s government says it is simply trying to rebuild a devastated region, but protests from human rights advocates show the efforts aim at destroying what amounts to scores of crime scenes before any credible investigation takes place
Bulldozers have been used in the mass demolitions to literally erase the nation’s ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority from the earth. Activists allege the purpose is mainly to destroy crucial evidence of inhuman atrocities committed against the Muslim village.
The satellite images from Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state was released to The Associated Press by Colorado-based Digital Globe on Friday, the news agency confirmed. Dozens of empty villages and hamlets have been completely leveled by authorities in recent weeks even though they were razed by fire in the aftermath of a war which started last August.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya indigenes were forced into exile during the brutal clearance operation conducted by security agencies — Bangladesh and other surrounding countries provided asylum, with aids received from international humanitarian agencies.
Myanmar’s armed forces are facing accusation of not just of burning Muslim villages with the help of Buddhist mobs, but carrying out massacres, rapes and widespread looting.
The crisis in Rakhine state began last August after Rohingya insurgents launched a series of unprecedented attacks on security posts.
Zubairia, a displaced woman from Rohingya whose village was among those razed, said she feels terrible thinking about the government’s decision to wipe the dwindling remnants of their culture and thereby making it impossible for them to return home.
“Some of the houses were partially destroyed as last year,” the woman from Myin Hlut said, “but now, everything is gone. Not even the trees are left. It is horrifying. They just bulldozed everything … I couldn’t even recognize my village.”
Another 18-year-old native of Rohingya said some homes in the same area were abandoned but not damaged, however adding that the bulldozers have turned the entire area to a flat ground.
“All the memories that I had there are gone,” she said. “They’ve been erased.”
Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project monitors the persecuted Muslim minority’s plight, said the degree to which the villages had been razed would make it even harder for the Rohingya, who have no citizenship and few rights, to ever reclaim their land.
“How will they identify where they lived, if nothing is left, if nothing can be recognized?” Lewa said. “Their culture, their history, their past, their present — it’s all being erased. When you see the pictures, it’s clear that whatever was left — the mosques, the cemeteries, the homes — they’re gone.”
Richard Weir, a Myanmar expert with Human Rights Watch, said on the images he had seen, “there’s no more landmarks, there’s no trees, there’s no vegetation.”
“Everything is wiped away, and this is very concerning, because these are crime scenes,” he said. “There’s been no credible investigation of these crimes. And so, what we’re talking about really is obstruction of justice.”
Both Weir and Lewa said no mass graves were known to have been destroyed.
“We don’t know where all the graves are because there is no access,” Weir added.