UN warns Myanmar’s Royingya minority may be victims of ‘crimes against humanity’
The conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has sent Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border to Bangladesh amid allegations of abuses by security forces
Myanmar’s Rohingya may be victims of crimes against humanity, the UN’s rights agency said on Tuesday, as former UN chief Kofi Annan arrived in the country for a visit that will include a trip to northern Rakhine.
The army has carried out a bloody crackdown in the western state and thousands of the Muslim minority have flooded over the border into Bangladesh this month, making horrifying claims of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of security forces.
Some 30,000 have fled their homes and analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.
Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, saying the army is hunting “terrorists” behind raids on police posts last month.
The government has lashed out at media reports of rapes and killings, and lodged a protest over a UN official in Bangladesh who said the state was carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya.
Foreign journalists and independent investigators have been banned from accessing the area to probe the claims.
On Tuesday, the UN OHCHR said Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya could be tantamount to crimes against humanity, reiterating the findings of a June report.
More than 120,000 Rohingya have been crammed into displacement camps since sectarian violence in 2012, where they are denied citizenship, health care and education and their movements are heavily curbed.
“The government has largely failed to act on the recommendations made in a report by the UN Human Rights Office... [that] raised the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity,” the OHCHR said in a statement.
Amid the mounting crisis, former UN chief Annan on Tuesday began a week-long visit to Myanmar that will include a trip to northern Rakhine
Suu Kyi in August appointed her fellow Nobel laureate to head a special commission to investigate how to mend bitter religious and ethnic divides that split the impoverished state.
Annan has expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Rakhine, which has seen thousands of angry Muslims take to the streets across Asia in protest.
But Aye Lwin, a Muslim member of the Rakhine commission, defended Suu Kyi’s handling of the crisis.
“What she has inherited is a dump of rubbish, a junk yard,” he said, pointing out the army retains control of security and defence under a constitution written under the former junta. “Her hands are tied – she can’t do anything. What she is doing is trying to talk and negotiate and build trust.”
Nonetheless, a senior UN official warned on Tuesday that the reputation of Suu Kyi’s government is at stake.
In a statement, Adama Dieng, the UN’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said the allegations “must be verified as a matter of urgency” and urged the government to allow access to the area.
“If they are true, the lives of thousands of people are at risk. The reputation of Myanmar, its new Government and its military forces is also at stake in this matter,” he said. “Myanmar needs to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to the human rights of all its populations. It cannot expect that such serious allegations are ignored or go unscrutinised.”
“The government needs, for once and for all, to find a sustainable solution to the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar, a solution that is in full compliance with the international human rights standards that the government has pledged to respect,” Dieng said.