UN official slams 'textbook ethnic cleansing' in Myanmar

Bangladeshis helping Rohingya Muslim refugees to disembark from a boat on the Bangladeshi side of Naf River yesterday.
Bangladeshis helping Rohingya Muslim refugees to disembark from a boat on the Bangladeshi side of Naf River yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GENEVA • The top United Nations human rights official yesterday denounced Myanmar's "brutal security operation" against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, saying it was disproportionate to insurgent attacks last month. He also referred to the situation as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Communal tensions appeared to be rising yesterday, after two weeks of violence in Rakhine that have triggered an exodus of about 300,000 Rohingya, prompting the government to tighten security at Buddhist pagodas.

Mr Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, addressing the UN Human Rights Council, said more than 270,000 people had fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, with more trapped on the border, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings.

"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 of fleeing civilians," Mr Zeid told the forum.

He cited reports that the Myanmar authorities had begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh and would require returnees to provide "proof of citizenship". Rohingya have been stripped of civil and political rights, including citizenship rights, for decades, he added. "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," Mr Zeid said. "The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Last year, Mr Zeid's office issued a report, based on interviews with Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh after a previous military assault, which he yesterday said had "suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity".

Meanwhile, police have fired rubber bullets to break up a mob that stoned the home of a Muslim butcher in central Myanmar, the authorities said yesterday.

The mob attack on Sunday night in the Magway region of the mainly Buddhist nation was fuelled by anger over the deepening crisis in Rakhine, according to a government press release.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'UN official slams 'textbook ethnic cleansing' in Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe