Myanmar’s military engaged in “extensive and systematic” preparations for a bloody crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, a rights group said on Thursday, in a damning new report that it says justifies a genocide investigation.
A military campaign that started last August forced some 7,00,000 of the effectively stateless minority over the border into Bangladesh, where they have recounted allegations of rape and extrajudicial killings.
The UN and the U.S. have called the campaign ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies the accusations, saying it was responding to an attack by Rohingya militants.
But Fortify Rights said its report, based on months of research in Myanmar and Bangladesh and hundreds of interviews with both victims and authorities, found that security forces disarmed Rohingya civilians and trained non-Rohingya communities to fight. The army also cut off food aid from the Rohingya and removed fencing from their homes for a clearer line of sight.
“Myanmar authorities made extensive and systematic preparations for the commission of mass atrocity crimes against indigenous Rohingya civilians during the weeks and months before Rohingya militant attacks on August 25, 2017,” Fortify said.
The report also said that the August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which Myanmar has cited as a reason for its counteroffensive, was a far more ad hoc operation than previously believed, and that crackdown plans were already under way.
“This is how genocide unfolds. And this is how genocide has unfolded in Rakhine State,” Fortify co-founder Matthew Smith said.