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Images show 'clear ethnic cleansing': Rights group shows satellite shot of burnt Rohingya villages

Amnesty International releases satellite images of burnt Rohingya villages

DHAKA Amnesty International has released fresh satellite images of burnt villages in Rakhine state, alleging that Myanmar's security forces have led "systematic" clearance of Rohingya Muslim settlements over the last three weeks.

At least 26 villages had been hit by arson attacks in the Rohingya-majority region, the rights group said last Friday, with patches of grey ash picked up in photos marking the spots where homes had once stood.

Backing up the pictures, Amnesty International said fire sensors deployed on satellites had detected 80 large-scale blazes across the state in Buddhist-majority Myanmar since Aug 25, when the army launched "clearance operations".

"Rakhine state is on fire" in a "clear campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar security forces", said Amnesty researcher Olof Blomqvist.

The group quoted Rohingya witnesses who described security officers and vigilantes using petrol or shoulder-fired rocket launchers to set homes alight, before firing on villagers.

"It is difficult to conclude it is anything other than a deliberate effort by the Myanmar military to drive Rohingya out of their own country by any means necessary," Mr Blomqvist added.

At least 430,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh to evade what the United Nations has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Things are not much better for those who managed to flee to Bangladesh.

Heavy monsoon rain heaped new misery on Sunday on hundreds of thousands of Rohinyga Muslims stuck in makeshift camps, as the Bangladesh authorities started a drive to force them to a new site.

With food and water shortages already making life tough, the rain brought back swamp-like conditions to many parts of the border town of Cox's Bazar, which has become a magnet for the Rohingya.

Bangladesh authorities, who have already issued travel restrictions on the Rohingya, launched an operation last Saturday to get tens of thousands out of roadside camps and shanties into a giant new camp.

Some 409,000 refugees have overwhelmed Cox's Bazar since Aug 25.

As existing camps are already full with 300,000 Rohingya fleeing earlier violence, many of the new arrivals have been forced to live in the open air or under flimsy plastic sheets.

Police toured streets with loudspeakers ordering exhausted families to go to the Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazar, which is being cleared to build new shelters.- WIRE SERVICES

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