Members of an embattled ethnic minority in Myanmar have reportedly been told to take down fences in front of their houses in the embattled Rakhine state.
The news comes amid a brutal military operation launched against the Rohingya Muslim community following a series of separate attacks targeting border guard outposts in Rakhine (aka Arakan), near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
Nine Burmese police officers were killed as a result of the assault, which was blamed on militants belonging to Aqa Mul Mujahidin, a non-local group purportedly trained by Taliban in Pakistan.
The Rohingya community was accused of helping the supposed militants.
Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist who currently lives in exile in Germany, tweeted images of small bamboo huts whose fences were purportedly removed by Burmese forces in Maungdaw, Rakhine state, under the orders of Police Major General Thura San Lwin, who is the border guard police force chief.
Another tweet by another activist M.S. Anwar, stated “even bamboo walls of bathrooms and lavatories.”
The photos are but a glimpse of just one of the many atrocities that Myanmar’s armed and police forces are carrying out against a minority which is not officially recognized by the government. Consequently, the Rohingya people aren’t recognized as citizens and are deprived of nearly all their basic rights.
The Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine were already reeling from inter-religious riots led by Buddhist extremist monks in 2012. The violence claimed dozens of Rohingya lives and displaced at least 140,000.
Now, the military crackdown is making things worse.
Tens of thousands of people in Rakhine, home to about 1.1 million members of the mostly Rohingya Muslims, have been denied food and other aid provided by international agencies, a restriction that is taking "terrible toll" on children, according to the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.
In addition, Burmese soldiers have been accused of raping and indiscriminately killing Rohingya Muslims.
“Villagers claim dozens of women may have been sexually assaulted near the state’s northern Maungdaw township, though access to the area — which borders Bangladesh — is severely limited, making claims almost impossible to verify,” Time magazine reported.
As if the situation wasn’t dire enough, Myanmar announced its plan to arm and train non-Muslim residents in the troubled state, a move that has been condemned by human rights activists.
"Establishing an armed, untrained, unaccountable force drawn from only one community in the midst of serious ethnic tensions and violence is a recipe for disaster," said Sam Zarifi, Asia director of human rights watchdog International Commission of Jurists.
However, the government has denied all allegations of abuses by its troops.
Meanwhile, Burmese military forces are refusing independent and foreign journalists from reporting on the region — which only goes to show that they have something to hide.
And there’s no hope of any improvement since the regional government of Rakhine has brushed off all international criticism.
"We must protect our national interests and these Muslims are not part of that. We don't care what you foreigners think. We must protect our land and our people, humanitarian concerns are a secondary priority,” said the executive secretary of the Rakhine State government, Tin Maung Swe, in an interview.