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Satellite images reveal violence in Myanmar

by Rohit Kumar

Myanmar also known as Burma is a Southeast Asian nation with a total area of 6,78,500 square kilometers, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. On 4th January 1948, the nation became independent from the British. Many religions are practiced in Myanmar i.e. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Tribal religions and Hinduism. Satellite images of DigitalGlobe show several hundred buildings burned in Burma’s Rakhine State, which is the home of Rohingya Muslims.

              Fig.1: location of Rakhine state of Myanmar and its major ethnic groups. © Google Earth & Al Jazeera

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim group which is often described as "the world's most persecuted minority. They have existed for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. Their regional language is Rohingya or Ruaingga. They are not considered one of the country's 135 official ethnic groups and have been refused citizenship in Myanmar since 1982.

First Citizenship Act was passed in 1948, in which Rohingyas were not included. The act, however, did allow those whose families lived in Myanmar for at least two generations to apply for identity cards. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed and Rohingyas were again not recognized as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups. In order to obtain the most basic level (naturalized citizenship), there must be proof that the person's family living in Myanmar prior to 1948. Many Rohingya lack such paperwork because it was either unavailable or denied to them. As a result of the law, their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and access health services have been and continue to be restricted.

Recently, 17 sites were identified where violence has taken place. Satellite imagery of Chein Khar Li, shows that a Muslim village was completely destroyed. Damage signatures are consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover. Satellite imagery below shows the total destruction of a Muslim village and prompts serious concerns that the level of devastation in northern Rakhine State.

                          Fig. 2: Satellite Image shows the complete destruction of the village of Chein Khar Li. © DigitalGlobe

Human Rights Commision argues that the large areas shown as burnt in the satellite imagery was set on fire deliberately. Considering current monsoon conditions these incidents do not seem to be an outcome of any natural disaster. The violence followed a series of organized attacks by ethnic Rohingya militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on the morning of August 25, 2017, against dozens of Burmese government police stations and checkpoints, government agencies, and an army base.

As per recently available data from the United Nations in May, more than 1,68,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar. Following violence that broke out last year, more than 87,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from October 2016 to July 2017.

                                                                            Fig.3: ©  Al Jazeera


Satellite images of DigitalGlobe shows several hundred buildings burned in Burma’s Rakhine State, which is the home to the Rohingya Muslims. Two Citizenship Act were passed in 1948 and 1980 where Rohingya Muslims were not recognized as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups. Due to violence 1,68,000 Rohingya have migrated to different countries especially Bangladesh.

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