Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee a violent expulsion campaign last year, is being militarized by Burmese security forces at a rapid pace, according to a chilling new report from Amnesty International.
Through a series of on-the-ground interviews and an analysis of satellite images, the human-rights group learned that former Rohingya villages—some of which had been burned to the ground—are now the site of new construction, including new roads and infrastructure for the military. While violence in the region has subsided since last year’s horrific campaign, which drew accusations of “ethnic cleansing,” human-rights workers fear that the new construction makes it even less likely that the more than 600,000 refuges who fled to Bangladesh will ever be able to return to their homes.
“What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s crisis response director, said in a statement.” New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya.”
The report and accompanying images shine a much-needed light on a region obfuscated by tight media restrictions, where journalists risk jail time for reporting from the ground. In a report from Yangon last year, I wrote about some of Myanmar’s regressive media laws and the free-speech activists who were fighting back.