The tactics of ethnic cleansing are still widespread, despite Myanmar signing a recent repatriation deal with Bangladesh, where close to 700,000 Rohingya refugees have sheltered since the start of a brutal military crackdown in August, the human rights group said.
Aid agencies documented thousands of refugees crossing over the border during December and January, squeezing into the already overcrowded, dusty Kutupalong camp near Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.
Interviews conducted by Amnesty with new arrivals from Buthidaung township revealed that most had fled their homes out of hunger, after being denied access to their rice fields and markets.
As one of the poorest states in Myanmar, Rakhine was already suffering from high malnutrition rates even before the military launched a savage campaign of arson, rape and killing.
While the acute violence has subsided, widespread hunger has been stoked by an apartheid system that restricts villagers’ movements.
“We weren’t able to get food, that’s why we fled,” said Dildar Begum, 30, from Ka Kyet Bet Kan Pyin village, near Buthidaung town.
Abdu Salam, 37, a day laborer in the rice fields near Hpon Nyo Leik village, told Amnesty that he was prevented from working during harvest time.
“The soldiers came and said, ‘This harvest is not your harvest.’...All of us were forced to leave,” he said.
Others fled because girls and young women were being abducted by soldiers, fearing they would be forced into sexual slavery.
Some new refugees spoke of how they had been robbed of all their valuables and abused at military checkpoints even as they left their homes behind, the Telegraph reported.
Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor at Amnesty International, said the extent of the ongoing attacks laid bare why plans for organized repatriation were “woefully premature.”
An arms embargo and targeted sanctions against Myanmar were urgently needed to apply pressure to the military to stop the ethnic cleansing, he said.
“Since the beginning of the crisis, the international community’s response to the atrocities against the Rohingya population has been weak and ineffective, failing to grasp the severity of the situation,” he said.