The world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis is taking place in Myanmar. Here’s why. - Vox
Entire villages have been burned to the ground. Women have been raped. Rohingya refugees report that soldiers shot at them as they fled. Along the border with Bangladesh, there are reports that the military has laid land mines to ensure those fleeing won’t return. Though independent observers have no access to the region, the Myanmar government now says 175 villages in the region — 30 percent of all Rohingya villages — are empty.
“We are hearing really horrendous stories of people who have survived by the skin of their teeth,” Paolo Lubrano, an Oxfam worker in Cox’s Bazar, a town on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, told me by Skype Friday morning. Lubrano described “dire violence” and an enormous number of very young, and very traumatized, Rohingya refugees. Among those fleeing Myanmar, he added, are many pregnant women who have been walking for three, four, or even five days to find safety.
The military calls the campaign a “clearance” operation against an insurgent terrorist military group. They claim the crackdown is in response to a series of armed attacks on border police by Rohingya militants on August 25 that left 12 officers dead, the second such type of attacks in the past 12 months. But observers say that though armed Rohingya insurgents exist, their overall numbers are small, and they are poorly equipped. And the crackdown has affected the entire ethnic group.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post on Sunday, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s military, was dismissive: “They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar.”
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has dubbed this crisis a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Some are going further — saying the country is tipping toward crimes against humanity and even possibly genocide. On September 14, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke out about the “horrors that we are witnessing occurring in Burma.”