UN: Myanmar's 'Ethnic Cleansing' of Rohingya Continues

UN: Myanmar's 'Ethnic Cleansing' of Rohingya Continues

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018 - 12:30
In this file photo taken on October 9, 2017 Rohingya refugees walk after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang. FRED DUFOUR / AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Myanmar is continuing its "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya with a "campaign of terror and forced starvation" in Rakhine state, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said on Tuesday.

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

While the majority of those refugees fled Myanmar last year, Rohingya continue to stream across the border by the hundreds 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," Gilmour said after speaking to newly-arrived Rohingya in Bangladesh's crowded refugee camps.

"The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting 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 said in a statement, adding that new arrivals are traveling from interior Rakhine towns further from the border. 

His statement, which came after a four-day visit to the Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh, also said it was "inconceivable" that any Rohingya would be able to return to Myanmar in the near future, despite the country's pledges to start taking back some refugees.

"The Government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that it is ready to receive Rohingya returnees, while at the same time its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh," Gilmour said.

"Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions."

Myanmar's military has largely closed off northern Rakhine state to journalists, diplomats and most aid organizations outside of brief chaperoned trips. 

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

Hundreds of Rohingya villages were torched, and recent satellite imagery showed at least 55 villages have since been completely bulldozed, removing all traces of buildings, wells and vegetation.

Separately, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was concerned about people living just inside Myanmar at its border with Bangladesh.

The office of the United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees is monitoring developments after several thousand people living in a makeshift camp "were reportedly ordered to vacate the area by the Myanmar authorities", the agency said.

Residents of what is called "no-man's land", as it sits outside Myanmar's border fence but on its side of a creek that separates the two countries, say Myanmar officials have warned them on loudspeakers that their presence on the border line is illegal.

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