Rohingya villagers who spoke to a UN security council delegation in Rakhine last week are in hiding after being targeted by Myanmar’s security agencies, members from the community say.
Villagers who spoke to the UNSC delegation during their visit to northern Rahkine state in May and shared their experiences of violence at the hands of the Myanmar military have been forced to disappear after the security agencies launched a hunt for them.
A Rohingya reporter told the Guardian that in the days before the UNSC delegation visited Rahkine, authorities in Maungdaw township had warned the Rohingya in the surrounding villages against telling the envoys anything adverse about the government or security forces.
“Anyone disobeying the warning would face hard consequences, the authorities threatened,” the reporter said. Whilst most villagers refused to speak to the envoys after the threat, in the village of Nolboinna three teenage boys and a middle-aged woman were willing to defy the orders.
Soon after the envoys left Nolboinna (Pandaw Pyin Village), agents from Myanmar’s Sa Ra Pa or military intelligence unit and border guard police (BGP) arrived in the village looking for the Rohingya who had spoken to the envoys. Now they have been forced to flee for their safety.
“Some intelligence agents who accompanied the envoys had filmed the conversations between the Rohingya villagers and the envoys in Nolboinna (Pandaw Pyin Village),” said the reporter, who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons.
“The Sa Ra Pa agents showed some of those video clips to the village administrator and other villagers of Nolboinna and sought their help to find out the four Rohingya villagers. It’s clear, fearing retribution from the government or the security agencies they all (the boys and the woman) have gone into hiding. We don’t know if they are still in Burma or have crossed over to Bangladesh.”
The administrator and other villagers told the military that they did not know the three boys and the woman, but the security agencies are still carrying out searches across villages in the region, a Bangladesh-based Rohingya political activist Ko Ko Linn said to the Guardian.
“For speaking the truth these four Rohingya villagers are paying the price. As it happened in the cases of some others in the past, they are being hounded by the Myanmar forces,” Linn said.
During their day-long visit to Rakhine on 1 May, the UNSC envoys toured several Rohingya villages, aiming to hear first-hand experiences of violence during security crackdown from as many Rohingya villagers as possible.
As a result of their findings on the trip, on Wednesday the UN security council called on Myanmar to speed up efforts to ensure the safe return of the Rohingya and to hold accountable perpetrators of attacks against the Muslim minority.
In a draft report, council members called on the Myanmar government to have a “transparent investigations into allegations of human rights abuses and violations.”
Multiple reports of Rohingya villagers targeted by the security agencies after they reported abuse and violence to international observers and media have surfaced also in the past.
Rohingya widows Noor Jahan and Jamalida Begum were also forced flee to Bangladesh in December 2016 after speaking to journalists, while four men who spoke to former UN security general Kofi Annan about their plight were imprisoned.