Myanmar’s army is building military bases on the sites of villages once home to the persecuted Rohingya minority, human rights group Amnesty International reported Monday, citing new satellite imagery.
The group said the images show that Myanmar authorities are rapidly developing areas that had been Rohingya villages, prior to the brutal military crackdown that has driven more than 700,000 of the Muslim minority across the border to Bangladesh.
At least three new security facilities were being built on lands left behind by the fleeing Rohingya, along with housing and new roads, the group said.
“What we are seeing in Rakhine State is a land grab by the military on a dramatic scale,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s crisis response director, said.
“New bases are being erected to house the very same security forces that have committed crimes against humanity against Rohingya.”
The group said the redevelopment of the Rohingya’s former home in the remote, western state of Rakhine seemed designed to bring more security forces and non-Rohingya residents into the region, in a bid to change its makeup. The process could deter refugees from returning, under the terms of a repatriation agreement reached with Bangladesh in November.
“Rohingya who fled death and destruction at the hands of the security forces are unlikely to find the prospect of living in close proximity to those same forces conducive to a safe return,” the group said in a statement.
More than 350 Rohingya villages in Rakhine state were destroyed by fire since the start of the crackdown, launched on Aug. 25 in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
Amnesty said that in one case, a village of Rohingya who had not been displaced by the violence were evicted by Myanmar authorities to make way for a security base. It said that at least four mosques that had survived the fires had also been dismantled in some way.
Myanmar officials have said that the former Rohingya villages in the region are being bulldozed to make way for new homes for returning refugees.
Last Tuesday, a U.N. human rights envoy said that Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya was continuing through a systematic campaign of “terror and forced starvation,” after meeting with recently arrived refugees at camps in Bangladesh.
On Wednesday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein he strongly suspects Myanmar has committed “acts of genocide” against the Rohingya, and that the reported bulldozing of mass graves showed a “deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy evidence of potential international crimes, including possible crimes against humanity.”
Cover image: Aerial view of a burned Rohingya village near Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar on Nov. 13, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Wa Lone)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.