Myanmar's government claims it is fighting a terrorist insurgency
The UN Security Council has condemned the violence in a rare unanimous rebuke
Almost 40% of all Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are now empty, a government spokesperson has confirmed.
More than 370,000 Rohingya – many of them women and children – have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 25, according to the United Nations, an average of almost 20,000 a day. The refugees speak of indiscriminate clearance operations, huts set on fire and family members being taken away and never heard from again.
Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar’s Presidential Office, said the reason people abandoned their homes was because many were told to leave by family members who were involved in terrorist activities.
Who are the Rohingya?
“Some of them are directly involved with terrorist activities and some are sympathizers for the terrorist group,” Zaw Htay wrote in an email to CNN. “And some are running away to avoid arrest by police because they had some connections with the terrorist group.”
The government says 176 out of 471, or 37.4% of all Rohingya villages are now empty of people, and an additional 34 villages were “partially abandoned.”
Prior to the current wave of violence, Myanmar’s population of Rohingya was estimated to number about 1 million, with the majority clustered in small often isolated villages in the northern part of Rakhine State along the border with Bangladesh and India.
Myanmar’s government maintains that the actions of its military are a necessary measure to protect against “terrorist activities” in Rahkine State by Rohingya militants.
Communities ripped apart
Among the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees pouring across the border into Bangladesh, stories of murder, rape and devastation are common.
Some have been injured by landmines they accuse Myanmar of planting along the border, while others described people being tortured to death or burned alive.
The United Nations said the crisis has left at least 1,000 people dead.