Myanmar officials have been bulldozing [HRW report] depopulated Rohingya villages that were previously the targets of arson by the government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Friday.
Satellite images have shown that at least 55 villages were cleared since late 2017. HRW has called on Myanmar to preserve the villages until they can be investigated by UN experts in order to document human rights violations. Although many of the villages were among the 362 villages that were partially or completely destroyed by security force attacks, at least two of the villages were completely intact before the bulldozing. HRW was not able to determine if the villages were still inhabited prior to demolition.
Myanmar has previously stated that areas of the Rakhine state would be cleared as part of a plan to rebuild the villages to a higher standard. The areas will also include a processing center for refugees once they start returning to the area.
HRW has called the demolition of the villages an attempt to destroy evidence and is obstruction of justice. The Burmese government has refused to grant visas for a UN fact-finding mission and has blocked independent access to the Northern Rakhine state. A Burmese investigation that concluded in November found no violations or abuses by the security forces.
Many groups have condemned Myanmar for the attacks in the Rakhine state against the Rohingya people. The U.S. House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] a bill in December condemning the ethnic cleansing. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called the attacks [JURIST report] on the Rohingya amount to ethnic cleansing in November 2016.