Myanmar security officials today took journalists to a still-smoldering Rohingya village where officials say members of the Muslim minority set fire to their own homes and vehicles.
Myanmar security officials today took journalists to a still-smoldering Rohingya village where officials say members of the Muslim minority set fire to their own homes and vehicles. Cattle and dogs wandered through the blackened, obliterated and deserted village of Ah Lel Than Kyaw in northern Rakhine state when about two dozen journalists visited. A dozen border police officers accompanied them. Some 146,000 Rohingya in the region have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in less than two weeks, Rohingya insurgents attacked police outposts in this village and several others Aug 25. The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them described as insurgents, have died in clashes, and that it has conducted “clearance operations.” It blames insurgents for setting villages on fire, but Rohingya say they were driven out by troops and Buddhist mobs who attacked them.
Local police officer Aung Kyaw Moe said 18 people were killed in the village. “From our side, there was one immigration officer dead, and we found 17 dead bodies from the enemy side,” he said. He said the fires were set Aug 25, though some of them continued to burn today. Virtually all buildings in the village seen by journalists had been burned, along with cars, motorbikes and bicycles that fleeing villagers left behind. A mosque was also damaged.
Columns of smoke could be seen rising in the distance, and distant gunshots could be heard. “They burned their own houses and ran away,” Aung Kyaw Moe said. “We didn’t see who actually burned them because we had to take care of the security for our outpost. … But when the houses were burned, Bengalis were the only ones in the village.”
Myanmar refers to Rohingya as Bengalis, contending they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.