Nearly 300,000 of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have been driven from their homes by an indiscriminate military campaign of mass killings, rapes, and arson that the United Nations has likened to ethnic cleansing. Now even their escape route has been compromised, after Myanmar’s army allegedly planted landmines at crossing points used by refugees fleeing the bloodshed, according to one human rights group.
Amnesty International reported two new mine injuries Sunday at crossing points along the border with Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of desperate Rohingya have fled in the past two weeks.
“All indications point to the Myanmar security forces deliberately targeting locations that Rohingya refugees use as crossing points,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s crisis response director.
“This a cruel and callous way of adding to the misery of people fleeing a systematic campaign of persecution.”
The latest injuries, one of which blew off a Bangladeshi farmer’s leg and another which wounded a Rohingya man, followed a death and serious injuries to at least three civilians, including two children, linked to landmines in the area in recent weeks, according to Amnesty. Myanmar’s military is one of only a few national armies around the world, along with North Korea and Syria, to openly use anti-personnel landmines.
The current crisis in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state began Aug. 25 after a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks on security posts. Myanmar’s army, backed by Buddhist mobs, responded with a brutal and indiscriminate military offensive that the U.N.’s human rights chief said Monday “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Speaking to the U.N.’s human rights council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the military’s campaign, saying it was “clearly disproportionate” to last month’s insurgent attacks.
A growing chorus of international leaders have lined up to condemn Myanmar for the ongoing offensive against the Rohingya – a Muslim ethnic group widely viewed as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities – but it has done nothing to curb the bloodshed.
The Dalai Lama appealed Friday for the leaders of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, to heed the example of the Buddha in their treatment of the persecuted Muslim minority, telling reporters: “They should remember Buddha in such circumstances; Buddha (would have) definitely helped those poor Muslims.”
Human rights icons such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai have also called on their fellow Nobel Laureate, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to halt the Rohingya’s persecution, but to no avail.
Tutu criticized Suu Kyi in an open letter posted to Twitter Friday. “The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread,” he wrote.
“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”