MSF Survey Counts Deaths in Myanmar Violence
The violence that erupted in Myanmar in August has resulted in the death of at least 6,700 Rohingya, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says.
The estimates were based on interviews conducted by the aid group with several thousand Rohingya refugees in four camps in Bangladesh in late October and early November. MSF gathered data by asking how many members of their families had died and how, both before and after the violence began.
Sidney Wong, MSF’s medical director, said in a statement, “What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member died as a result of violence and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured.”
The MSF pointed out that their estimate is much higher than Myanmar’s official figure of 400. And, the number also speaks for the severity of atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and authorities.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state thought to number about 1 million people. Myanmar does not recognize them as citizens in the country.
Based on the MSF survey, around 69% of the violence-related deaths were caused by gunshots, 9% were due to being burnt to death in their houses and 5% were beaten to death.
Among the dead children below the age of five, MSF says more than 59% were reportedly shot, 15% burnt to death, 7% beaten to death and 2% killed by landmine blasts.
However, the estimates may not be the exact number of deaths, as MSF have not surveyed all settlements of Rohingya refugees.
Wong said, “The number of deaths are likely to be an underestimation as we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don’t account for the families who never made it out of Myanmar.”
Myanmar Military Denies Any Wrongdoing
Myanmar authorities were bombarded with accusations over the violence and mass killings of Rohingya. However, this accusation has been denied by the Myanmar authorities and military. Instead, they blamed terrorists for the mass killings and denied widespread reports of murder, rape and destruction in Rakhine state.
To clear their names of the sad plight of Rohingya, the Myanmar military report attributed the mass exodus of refugees and the repeated reports of military violence to a campaign of misinformation perpetrated by the Rohingya militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ASRA).
However, Amnesty International and the United Nations do accept such reasons. In fact, Amnesty described the report as an attempt by the military to “sweep serious violations against the Rohingya under the carpet.”
“There is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingya and burned their villages to the ground,” Amnesty said.
In addition, the United Nations condemned the ongoing violence against the Rohingya inside Myanmar, described by Human Rights Chief Zeid Raad al-Huseein as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
Violence in September
The violence in Myanmar in September caused displacement of thousands of Rohingya, forcing them to evacuate to Bangladesh.
Myanmar’s government blamed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group in the Rohingya-majority areas in the South Asian nation, for coordinated violent attacks against its security posts, triggering retaliation from the government.
The violence escalated as more than 2,600 houses were burned down, causing Rohinga to leave their homes and seek refuge in the neigboring country.
Who Are The Rohingya?
The Rohingya are the Muslim minority in Myanmar. They are regarded as illegal immigrants. The previous US administration called them one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Some Rohingya have been denied citizenship, making them stateless. For many decades, they have been persecuted and discriminated against.
Myanmar is a dominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people and Northern Rakhine is home to 80 percent of the country’s 1 million outcast Muslim Rohingya population.