UN starting to gather testimony on Myanmar violations: Investigator

An overview of the crowded camp near Tangkhali, Ukhiya, Bangladesh, on Sept 17, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

GENEVA (REUTERS) - United Nations investigators have started collecting testimony from fleeing Rohingya Muslims pointing to human rights violations by Myanmar's military and security forces, the head of the fact-finding mission said on Tuesday (Sept 19).

Marzuki Darusman said his UN team was still trying to get Myanmar's permission to enter the country, but was gathering evidence from refugees and medics in the border town of Cox's Bazar in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Darusman's team started its work in August, the month that attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents in Myanmar triggered a military response that has forced more than 421,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh in the past month.

Myanmar has denied rights groups' accusations that it is trying to drive the minority community out of Rakhine state, saying it is only targeting militants.

"Initial information has been given that some of the allegations that have been spelled out in the resolution are reflected in the initial findings of the team in their interviews," Darusman told reporters. "What they have come up with reflects in general the reporting of the international media so far on what is happening there."

The UN Human Rights Council's resolution to set up the fact-finding mission mandated Darusman's team to look into"alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces and abuses in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State".

The international media has widely reported on the plight of the Rohingya and their accounts of persecution by Myanmar's military and security forces, which the UN human rights chief has referred to as a "textbook example" of ethnic cleansing.

Initial findings would be released within about 10 days, Darusman said. His team was supposed to deliver its full report in March, but Darusman told the Geneva-based Council that timeframe was "utterly insufficient" and asked for a six-month extension.

Myanmar's ambassador Htin Lynn told the Council that Myanmar was making efforts to restore peace, law and order. "Proportionate security measures targeted only on terrorists are being taken to safeguard our state security, and to restore law and order," he said. "We continue to believe that instituting such a mission is not a helpful course of action in solving the already intricate Rakhine issue with daunting challenges."

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