60,000 refugees flee ethnic 'genocide' in Burma

A group of Rohingya alight from a local boat after crossing into Bangladesh.
A group of Rohingya alight from a local boat after crossing into Bangladesh. Bernat Armangue

ROHINGYA children have been beheaded and civilians burned alive, according to witness testimony amid claims Burma's military and paramilitary forces are committing "genocide” against the Muslim minority in the country's western Rakhine state.

About 60,000 refugees are believed to have fled over the country's western border into Bangladesh in a just a week following a clampdown on Rohingya militants.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called for the violence to end, saying the treatment of the Rohingya is "besmirching the reputation of Burma”, also known as Myanmar, and appealing to Aung San Suu Kyi - the former dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize and is now the country's State Counsellor - to act.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone much further, accusing Burma's forces of genocide and saying those who turn a blind eye to events are complicit.

Observers believe the number of displaced people is likely to increase. The Burmese military said 400 militants had been killed in clashes with their forces.

Civilians who escaped gave horrific accounts of violence and destruction by Burmese soldiers and other armed groups.

A man named as Abdul Rahman, 41, said he had survived a five-hour attack on Chut Pyin village.

He told Fortifiy Rights, a charity working in the area, a group of Rohingya men had been rounded up and detained in a bamboo hut that was then set on fire.

"My brother was killed, (Burmese soldiers) burned him with the group,” he said.

"We found (my other family members) in the fields. They had marks on their bodies from bullets and some had cuts.

"My two nephews, their heads were off. One was six-years-old and the other was nine-years-old. My sister-in-law was shot with a gun.”

Another man from the same village, named as Sultan Ahmed, 27, told the charity: "Some people were beheaded, and many were cut. We were in the house hiding when (armed residents from a neighbouring village) were beheading people. When we saw that, we just ran out the back of the house.”

Survivors from other villages in the region also described seeing people being beheaded or having their throats cut.

"We can't stress enough the urgency of the situation,” said Matthew Smith, head of Fortify Rights.

"The Myanmar authorities are failing to protect civilians and save lives. International pressure is critically needed.”

Satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch showed 700 buildings burned down in another Rohingya village, Chein Khar Li.

"Yet this is only one of 17 sites that we've located where burnings have taken place. Independent monitors are needed on the ground to urgently uncover what's going on,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for HRW.

The Burmese Government has denied access to the affected areas to journalists and observers.

Ms Suu Kyi is silent on the extreme violence reported within her country and has faced mounting criticism from observers.

Topics:  burma ethnic cleansing refugees

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