A massive Myanmar army crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state has left more than 20,000 people dead, leaving more than half a million homeless, and forcing tens of thousands to flee to Bangladesh.
The army has used its state-of-the-art tanks and armoured personnel carriers to crush Rohingya, with hundreds of soldiers using tanks and armored vehicles to storm towns and villages, and firing on civilians and soldiers.
On Thursday, the military announced the start of its “anti-terror operation” in the country, after the Myanmar parliament passed a law allowing the army to arrest people who are suspected of supporting the Rohingya.
A spokesman for Myanmar’s military said the operation would begin in Myanmar’s western Rakhines state on Monday and would be extended to neighbouring Bangladesh.
It is the second time Myanmar has deployed troops to Rakhina, where ethnic Rakhis have lived for centuries under a Muslim-majority military rule.
The military has long been accused of committing human rights abuses against the Rohingya, which is predominantly Muslim, and has denied any involvement.
The Myanmar government says it is trying to “neutralise” the Rohingya by eliminating the Muslim minority, but has faced strong international criticism for failing to act.
“We will not give them any place to hide,” Rakhish Khin, the Myanmar ambassador to China, told Reuters in an interview.
The crackdown comes after the government last month accused Rohingya militants of carrying out attacks against security forces in the northern state of Rakhini.
It also came after a suicide bomber killed a security official in the state on March 5, triggering mass protests.
The government has denied the allegations, and it has blamed the insurgents for the suicide attack.
The latest clashes have displaced millions of people and led to a humanitarian crisis.
The military has accused the protesters of attempting to seize control of Rangoon, home to the world’s largest Buddhist population, which it has long controlled.
The Rohingya have long faced discrimination, and the military has blamed them for causing the violence.