Ethnic cleansing of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims continues, UN says
Myanmar is continuing its "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority with a "campaign of terror and forced starvation" in Rakhine state, a UN human rights envoy said on Tuesday.
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.
While the majority of those refugees fled Myanmar last year, Rohingya Muslims continue to stream across the border to Bangladesh 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," UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said.
"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.
Gilmour added that new arrivals to refugee camps are travelling from interior Rakhine towns further from the border.
Gilmour said that it is "inconceivable" that any Rohingya would be able to return to Myanmar in the near future, despite pledges to start repatriating some refugees.
Myanmar and Bangladesh originally agreed to begin repatriations in January, but they were delayed by concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.
"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."
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.
The northern Rakhine state has been largely closed off to journalists, diplomats and most aid organisations by Myanmar's military.
It has justified the crackdown as an effort to root out Rohingya militants who attacked border police posts in August, killing about a dozen people.
But the UN, rights groups and many Western powers have accused the army of using the counterinsurgency as a pretext to expel a minority that has faced brutal discrimination for decades.
Last month a UN special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said the military's violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear "the hallmarks of a genocide".