The Myanmar military executed dozens of Rohingya Muslims in many villages across the restive Rakhine state on August 27, days after the recent spate of violence began, the Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

Soldiers had sexually assaulted, beaten up, shot and stabbed the villagers who had gathered for safety, it alleged. “Satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch shows the near total destruction of the villages of Maung Nu and nearby Hpaung Taw Pyin,” the organisation said in a statement. “The damage signatures are consistent with fire.”

On August 25, Rohingya militants attacked police posts in Rakhine. Hundreds have died since they targeted 30 police sites at an army base in a coordinated strike. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army claimed responsibility for the attack. More than 5 lakh people have fled to Bangladesh since then.

Source: Human Rights Watch

However, the organisation could not verify the number of villagers killed. “All the horrors of the Burmese army’s crimes against humanity against the Rohingya are evident in the mass killings in Maung Nu village,” Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said.

The non-profit also repeated its call for targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Myanmar military to stop further “crimes against humanity”.

The crisis

Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar, though the country has repeatedly denied this claim.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de-facto leader, has been facing criticism from world leaders, and the crisis has threatened to jeopardise Myanmar’s US-aided shift toward democracy after five decades of military rule.