Myanmar says 40% of Rohingya villages targeted by army are now empty

Spokesman says 176 villages have been cleared by army, as Mrs aung san suu kyi pulls out of UN general assembly

Scores of villages that were inhabited by Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority are now completely empty, a government spokesman has said.

Of 471 villages targeted in” clearance operations” by the Burmese army since late August, 176 were now empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned, Zaw Htay said.

The violent crackdown, launched in response to attacks by activists, has sent at the least 370,000 Rohingya scrambling across the border to Bangladesh and prompted a onslaught of criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader.

The Nobel laureate had been due to attend the UN general assembly next week, but Zaw Htay said she would now skip the event.

” The first reason is because of the Rakhine terrorist attacks ,” he said.” The second reason is there are people inciting riots in some areas … The third is that we are hearing that there will be terrorist attacks and we are trying to address this issue .”

The second vice-president, Henry Van Tio, instead will represent Myanmar at the UN.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticised for blaming “terrorists” for what she called ” a huge iceberg of misinformation” about the violence in recent weeks, will give a televised address in Myanmar next week that will encompas the same topics she would have addressed at the UN.

Last year, in her first speech to the UN official records of the general assembly as Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi won praise for pledging to uphold the rights of minorities.

Five fellow Nobel peace prize wins have added their voices to a chorus of international calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to defend the rights of the Rohingya people. Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman signed a letter asking her:” How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya girls will be raped; how many communities will be bulldozed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice ?”

Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to take back the Rohingya who have fled in recent weeks, but on Wednesday Zaw Htay indicated not all of them would be able to return immediately.

” We have to verify them; we can only accept them after they are verified ,” he said. His remark was an apparent including references to schemes announced on Tuesday to speed up progress on confirming Rohingya under Myanmar’s citizenship laws.

Q& A

Why hasn’t Mrs aung san suu kyi denounced anti-Rohingya violence?

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When Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in 2012 there were high hopes that the Nobel peace prize win would help mend Myanmar’s entrenched ethnic divides.

Some defenders at the time tried to argue that she was gagged by temporary political fears because she had to hold on to the votes of nationalist Buddhists. However, her NLD party won a landslide victory in elections in 2015 and yet she remained conspicuously silent.

She has defended the governmental forces that she is part of in response to the recent wave of violence, sparking farther widespread condemnation.

Her exact motivatings remain opaque but the only thing she patently stands to lose by speaking out is the support of the military power brokers who still ultimately control Myanmar. The only thing she could obviously hope to gain by her silence is more power and influence.

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As criticism of Myanmar mounts, a humanitarian crisis is brewing on both sides of the border. Bangladesh is struggling to provide humanitarian relief for the refugees, 60% of whom are children, while virtually 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have been displaced inside Myanmar.

On Wednesday the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, called on Myanmar to suspend its military action, describing the humanitarian situation as “catastrophic” and calling on all countries to supply assistance. Earlier this week his colleague Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, accused Myanmar of waging a” systematic attack “~ ATAGEND on the Rohingya that appeared to amount to ethnic cleansing.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s first civilian leader in decades, does not control the actions of the military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015.

violence against rohingya

There is scant empathy among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority for the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim group branded “Bengalis”- shorthand for illegal immigrants.

Refugees have given chilling accounts of soldiers firing on civilians and razing villages in northern Rakhine state with the help of Buddhist mobs.

The army denies the allegations and Mrs aung san suu kyi has also played down claims of atrocities.

Associated Press reporters on the Bangladesh side of the border said they had ensure an elderly female with devastating leg wounds, one half-blown off and the other also badly injured. Relatives said she had stepped on a landmine.

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