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Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Myanmar Army of burning hundreds of houses in Rohingya Muslim minority Villages

Both the army and the government denied the accusations and instead blamed the attacks on Rohingya militants

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A house on fire (Representational image). Pixabay

Nay Pyi Taw, December 13, 2016: Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Myanmar army of burning hundreds of houses in the Rohingya Muslim minority villages where a massive military offensive has been ongoing for over two months.

The rights group, with the help of satellite images, said 1,500 houses were burnt by the army in the northern Rakhine state, EFE news reported.

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The army’s offensive followed an attack on October 9 against police border posts, allegedly by Rohingya insurgents.

The group said the pattern of torching houses coincided with the advance of the soldiers and their deployment in the villages.

The torching in three cases took place after alleged attacks by insurgents and suggests “a reprisal element”, the report said.

It included the testimony of 10 Rohingya refugees, who fled towards Bangladesh due to the violence and witnessed soldiers setting houses on fire.

The report strengthens claims by local activists who accuse the army of carrying out killings, rapes and looting in the area which has been closed off to humanitarian aid organisations, observers and the media.

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According to the UN, around 150,000 people were dependent on humanitarian aid for food and money before the armed attacks and subsequent military operation by the army, which has prompted at least 21,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Both the army and the government denied the accusations and instead blamed the attacks on Rohingya militants.

HRW also urged the Myanmar authorities to open up the affected region to humanitarian aid and observers, following similar pleas by the UN and 14 diplomatic missions in the country in recent days.

Rakhine is home to more than a million Rohingyas, a community not recognised as citizens in the country and often shunned as Bangladeshi immigrants.

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Around 120,000 of them live severely restricted lives in 67 camps since the outbreak of sectarian violence in 2012 when at least 160 people died.

The sectarian conflict in Rakhine is one of the main challenges facing the Aung San Suu Kyi administration, the first democratic one in the country in over half a century. (IANS)

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World Population Expected to Reach 9.7 Billion in 2050, United Nations Reports

The new population projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected population growth

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FILE - Faces in the crowd at the peace assembly in Kathmandu, May 7, 2010. VOA

The world’s population is getting older and growing at a slower pace but is still expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, the United Nations said Monday.

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division said in a new report that world population could reach its peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the century.

But Population Division Director John Wilmoth cautioned that because 2100 is many decades away this outcome “is not certain, and in the end the peak could come earlier or later, at a lower or higher level of total population.”

The new projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected growth between now and 2050. In descending order of the expected increase, they are: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States.

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The world’s population is getting older and growing at a slower pace but is still expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050. VOA

In sub-Saharan Africa, it is projected to nearly double by 2050, the report said.

Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Lu Zhenmin said in a statement: “Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty,” promote gender equality and improve health care and education.

The report confirmed that the world’s population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels.

The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019 and is projected to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050.

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A fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman is need to ensure population replacement and avoid declines, according to the report.

In 2019, the fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa was the highest at 4.6 births per woman, with Pacific islands, northern Africa, and western, central and southern Asia above the replacement level, the report said.

But since 2010, it said 27 countries or areas have lost one percent or more of their population.

“Between 2019 and 2050 populations are projected to decrease by one percent or more in 55 countries or areas, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least 10 percent,” the U.N. said. “In China, for example, the population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 percent, between 2019 and 2050.”

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World population could reach its peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the century. Pixabay

Wilmoth, the head of the Population Division, told a news conference launching the report that the population growth rate is slowing down as the fertility level gradually decreases. That decrease usually follows a reduction in the mortality level that initially instigated growth, he said.

Wilmoth stressed that multiple factors lead to lower fertility including increasing education and employment, especially for women, and more jobs in urban than rural areas, which motivate people away from costly large families to  smaller families.

But to achieve this, he said, people also need access to modern methods of contraception.

According to the “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights” report, migration is also a major component of population growth or loss in some countries.

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Between 2010 and 2020, it said 14 countries or areas will see a net inflow of more than one million migrants while 10 countries will experience a similar loss.

For example, some of the largest outflows of people — including from Bangladesh, Mepal and the Philippines — are driven by the demand for migrant workers, the report said. But some migrants are driven from their home countries by violence, insecurity and conflict, including from Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela.

The U.N. said countries experiencing a net inflow of migrants over the decade include Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. (VOA)