Myanmar has bulldozed at least 55 villages that were emptied of their Rohingya Muslim inhabitants during violence that began previous year, Human Rights Watch said on Friday citing a review of new satellite imagery.
However, the satellite images show that at least two of the villages demolished were previously undamaged by fire and likely inhabitable.
HRW has called the demolition of the villages an attempt to destroy evidence and is obstruction of justice.
The villages "should be treated as crime scenes that should be preserved until the UN Fact-Finding Mission is given access to the area to carry out investigations", it added.
In late August, after Rohingya insurgents launched deadly attacks on police posts, the Myanmar police deployed a response that has included mass killings, rapes, starvation, and the destruction of villages.
HRW said at least 55 villages had been razed to the ground since late 2017, after almost 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape military and civilian reprisals in the state. The U.S. and United Nations have said the government's actions amount to ethnic cleansing. Independent reporting or fact finding in the area by reporters or forensic experts has not been permitted.
HRW has condemned the demolition, accusing Myanmar's security forces of erasing crucial evidence that could hold them accountable for their treatment of the Rohingya.
The satellite images from DigitalGlobe shows at least 28 villages have been flattened by bulldozers and other machinery in a 50 km radius around Maungdaw between December and February.
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A total of 362 villages have been destroyed either completely or partially since Myanmar's military began a campaign against the Rohingya in August a year ago, according to HRW.
First, their villages were burned to the ground. "The roads will also be widened, and we will install lampposts as well". This is the process for both villages and township plans. As a result, he said, "We must implement this project with great momentum".
However, the Myanmar government has claimed that it is trying to rebuild a "devastated region".
"Everything is wiped away, and this is very concerning, because these are crime scenes".
"I've heard that authorities are working on the resettlement projects for the refugees who are returning homes", he told RFA. In the last four days, bombing of civilian areas, including 13 hospitals, in Eastern Ghouta has killed 310 people, many of them children. "Conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees", Grandi told members of the Security Council.
Officials say their activities in Rakhine state are related to rebuilding efforts, conducted partly with the intention of repatriating the Rohingya refugees who escaped to Bangladesh.
Knut Ostby, the interim United Nations coordinator for Myanmar, said in a release the immediate concern was to provide humanitarian aid to people in need, "irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, gender or citizenship status".
Free speech will be a key issue for those concerned about human rights this year, the report said.