Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh mark one year since the series of violence that expelled hundreds of thousands of them from their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state with demonstrations and prayers Saturday.
Thousands of refugees, including children and the elderly, marched prayed and chanted slogans in the sprawling camps in southern Bangladesh. Many wore black ribbons to commemorate what they said was the start of the “Rohingya genocide.”
“Today marks 365 days since that day. So I want to say, we want justice,” Aisha, a 47-year-old refugee said.
According to the United Nations, around 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine after Myanmar troops swept through their villages, burning homes, raping women, and killing members of the Muslim minority. The United Nations referred to the case as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The army’s onslaught occurred after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base on August 25, 2017.
The government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the allegations made by the refugees, saying that security forces lawfully suppressed Muslim militants in Rakhine. However, in February satellite imagery showed at least 28 Rohingya villages had been leveled.
Despite the government’s official stance, international pressure on Myanmar has been growing.
Ahead of the anniversary, 132 legislators from five Southeast Asian countries issued a statement calling for Myanmar officials to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC is currently considering whether it has jurisdiction as Myanmar is not a member of the court.
U.N.-mandated investigators will publish a report on the crisis Monday.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters Friday that Myanmar did not tolerate human rights abuses, and had set up an investigation commission to look into the Rakhine crisis.
Across the border in Myanmar, the government increased security patrols ahead of the anniversary for fear of further violence. Buddhist and Hindus in the Rakhine state said they would hold events to commemorate those killed by Rohingya militants in attacks they claim unleashed the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.