‘Textbook ethnic cleansing’: UN human rights chief slams Myanmar over Rohingya violence and calls for investigation
Nearly 300,000 of the Muslim minority have fled violence in Rakhine state since militants attacked military forces, sparking a major crackdown
The UN human rights chief has slammed Myanmar’s apparent “systematic attack” on the Rohingya minority, warning that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be underway.
“Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council.
The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The UN estimated that 294,000 Rohingya refugees had arrived in Bangladesh since militants attacked Myanmar security forces in neighbouring Rakhine state on August 25, sparking major military backlash. Thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine.
“The operation ... is clearly disproportionate and without regard for basic principles of international law,” Zeid said.
“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has received strong international criticism for the military’s treatment of the Rohingya.
“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” Zeid said.
He said he was particularly “appalled” by reports that Myanmar authorities had begun laying landmines along the border with Bangladesh to prevent those who fled from returning.
Noting that Myanmar had stripped Rohingyas of a wide range of rights, including citizenship, since 1962, the UN human rights chief took aim at official statements suggesting that refugees who had fled the violence would only be allowed back if they provide proof of nationality.
“This measure resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return,” he said.
Zeid urged the Myanmar government to “stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages”, and called on authorities to allow his office access to investigate the situation.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh agreed to free a plot of land for a new camp to shelter the thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled the latest violence and to relieve pressure on existing settlements in the border district of Cox’s Bazar.
“The two refugees camps we are in are beyond overcrowded,” said UN refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan.
“Tomorrow we are expecting an airlift of relief supplies for 20,000 people.”
Mohammed Shahriar Alam, a junior minister for foreign affairs, wrote on Facebook that Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered the additional site near the existing camp of Kutupalong “to build temporary shelters for the Rohingya newcomers”.
He also said the government would begin registering the new arrivals on Monday. Hasina is expected to visit Rohingya refugees on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Associated Press