The Burmese government should allow human rights monitors and independent journalists prompt and unfettered access to northern Rakhine State to investigate alleged widespread property destruction and other rights abuses against ethnic Rohingya, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
At a news conference on November 16, 2016, Burma’s Office of the State Counsellor responded to a November 13 Human Rights Watch report that used satellite imagery to identify 430 destroyed buildings in three Rohingya villages in Maungdaw district. Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, acknowledged there had been buildings burned in the three villages, but disputed the total number based on images collected on November 15, by a Burmese military helicopter. He also stated the government would lift restrictions on non-state media access to the area, which has been on lockdown since October 9, but provided no timeframe for doing so.
“The Burmese government’s confirmation of widespread fire damage in northern Rakhine State and offer to allow media access is a step toward getting at the truth of what happened,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But this is long overdue. Prompt and unhindered access to affected areas for independent investigations by the media and human rights organizations is crucial.”