Myanmar continued to destroy Rohingya villages just days after signing a refugee resettlement deal, according to a rights group.
Satellite images of Myanmar published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday revealed destruction in 40 Rohingya villages since October.
“The Burmese army’s destruction of Rohingya villages within days of signing a refugee repatriation agreement with Bangladesh shows that commitments to safe returns were just a public relations stunt,” said HRW Asia director, Brad Adams.
The organisation said the number of completely or partially destroyed Rohingya villages since Myanmar began its campaign targeting the largely Muslim ethnic group now stood at 354.
Citing evidence, HRW said villages may have been targeted as recently as early December, despite a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow Rohingya refugees to return home in late November.
Images of Maungdaw Township in Rakhine State showed the razing of buildings at some point between November 25 and December 2.
In August, the Burmese military launched a military campaign ostensibly targeting Rohingya armed groups, but which the Rohingya people, rights groups, journalists, foreign states, and the UN have said is targeting ordinary civilians.
Rohingya refugees who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh have shared accounts of destroyed homes, rapes, and mass killing.
The HRW report comes as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, reiterated his belief that what was happening to the Rohingya could amount to genocide.
He told the BBC that the perpetrators of abuses against the ethnic group could one day be brought to trial in international courts.
Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi may not be excluded from possible future proceedings, he said.
More than 600,000 members of the Rohingya community have fled to Bangladesh, where they live in enclosed camps.
The group has long been the target of discriminatory practices in Myanmar, including the withdrawal of citizenship rights and lack of access to state services.