YANGON • Myanmar is continuing its "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya with a "campaign of terror and forced starvation" in Rakhine state, said a United Nations human rights envoy yesterday, six months after a military crackdown sparked a mass exodus of the Muslim minority.
Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh since August, with horrifying testimony of murder, rape and arson by soldiers and vigilante mobs.
While the majority of those refugees fled Myanmar last year, others are still streaming across the border by the hundred every week.
"The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues. I don't think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox's Bazar," said UN assistant secretary-general for human rights Andrew Gilmour, after speaking to newly arrived Rohingya in Bangladesh's refugee camps.
"The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied bloodletting and mass rape of last year to a lower-intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh."
He also said it was "inconceivable" that any Rohingya would be able to return to Myanmar in the near future, despite its pledges to start taking back some refugees.
Myanmar's military has justified the crackdown as an effort to root out Rohingya militants who attacked border police posts last August, killing about a dozen people.
But the UN, rights groups and Western powers have accused the army of using those attacks as a pretext to expel a minority which has faced discrimination for decades.
Myanmar's civilian government, led by former democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, lacks control over the military but has been castigated by rights groups for failing to speak out in defence of the Rohingya.