Another genocide

This is happening:

They stumble down muddy ravines and flooded creeks through miles of hills and jungle in Bangladesh, and thousands more come each day, in a line stretching to the monsoon-darkened horizon.

Some are gaunt and spent, already starving and carrying listless and dehydrated babies, with many miles to go before they reach any refugee camp.

They are tens of thousands of Rohingya, who arrive bearing accounts of massacre at the hands of the Myanmar security forces and allied mobs that started on Aug. 25, after Rohingya militants staged attacks against government forces.

The retaliation that followed was carried out in methodical assaults on villages, with helicopters raining down fire on civilians and front-line troops cutting off families’ escape. The villagers’ accounts all portray indiscriminate attacks against fleeing noncombatants, adding to a death toll that even in early estimates is high into the hundreds, and is probably vastly worse.

“There are no more villages left, none at all,” said Rashed Ahmed, a 46-year-old farmer from a hamlet in Maungdaw Township in Myanmar. He had already been walking for four days. “There are no more people left, either,” he said. “It is all gone.”

They’re a Muslim ethnic minority in Burma, where the majority is Buddhist. Is Buddhism teaching the majority not to commit genocide? Nope.

The exodus is full of perils itself.

They face another round of gunfire from Myanmar’s border guards, and miles of treacherous hill trails and flood-swollen streams and mud fields ahead before they reach crowded camps without enough food or medical help. Dozens were killed when their boats overturned, leaving the bodies of women and children washed up on river banks.

The term “war crime” seems inadequate:

After militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police posts and an army base on Aug. 25, killing more than a dozen, the Myanmar military began torching entire villages with helicopters and petrol bombs, aided by Buddhist vigilantes from the ethnic Rakhine group, those fleeing the violence said.

Person after person along the trail into Bangladesh told of how the security forces cordoned off Rohingya villages as the fire rained down, and then shot and stabbed civilians. Children were not exempt.

And the refugees are fleeing to Bangladesh, which is already poor and is under heavy flooding.

An international response to the crisis has started. On Wednesday, Britain arranged for a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Rohingya emergency. The civilian government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has faced mounting global criticism for refusing to acknowledge the magnitude of the military offensive on civilian Rohingya populations.

On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, rejected allegations from Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration that international aid organizations were somehow complicit in aiding Rohingya militants.

Earlier this year, the United Nations set up a special commission to investigate another military onslaught that caused 85,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh over the course of the following months, following an ARSA attack on police posts in October. But Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has barred the United Nations team from Myanmar.

In an open letter to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, nearly a dozen of her fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates labeled last October’s military offensive “a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

“Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide,” said the letter, signed by Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, among others. “It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies: Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.”

On Thursday and Friday, when thousands of refugees finally reached the village of Rezu Amtali, a five-hour trek through the hills from the border, there were no aid groups to meet them.

Sympathetic villagers offered some drinking water and packets of snacks, while autorickshaw drivers ferried families to the sprawl of makeshift settlements that surround the Kutupalong camp. Most had to walk hours more, through torrential downpours, to reach the refugee shantytown.

So there’s that.

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