United Nations rights official says "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya continues

09 March, 2018, 09:49 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village. Reuters

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh since violence erupted in August, with horrifying testimonies emerging of murder, rape and arson by soldiers and vigilante mobs.

Concluding a four-day visit to refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh this week, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour reported that while most Rohingya have fled towns near the Bangladesh border, many continue to arrive from farther-flung parts of the Rakhine.

A man walks between a rice field and the shacks of Rohingya refugees living on the land of Bangladeshi farmer Jorina Katun near the Kutapalong refugee camp in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh February 9, 2018.

Rohingya are still fleeing because of "systematic" if lower-intensity persecution and violence there, he said.

The Rohingya mass exodus was triggered by a brutal military campaign perpetrated by the Myanmar Army and local Moghs.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to start repatriating the Rohingya refugees at the end of January but the deal was suspended at the last minute by the Dhaka government.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the Rohingya community as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement.

Myanmar's military has largely closed off the north of Rakhine state to journalists, diplomats and most aid organisations apart from brief chaperoned trips.

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After Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 police posts and an army base on August 25, Myanmar soldiers and police swept through villages in what the government says was a legitimate operation to root out "terrorists".

Rights groups and the United Nations have warned that conditions for their return are not close to being in place.

James Gomez, Amnesty International's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said the UN's new findings "sadly echo our own".

Living conditions for refugees remain extremely hard despite a growing global response, but the United Nations refugee agency said the threat from elephants had emerged as a new concern.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.

Abductions of Rohingya girls and women by Burmese security forces was a "recurring theme" said the OHCHR, corroborating accounts of sexual violence and killings provided to other United Nations agencies and non-profit organisations including Human Rights Watch.

Rights groups say that is the tip of the iceberg from a force with a grim history of abuses around the country and open hostility towards the Rohingya. "We've asked Myanmar for humanitarian access in order to help people like them and others affected by the recent violence".

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