A SENIOR United Nations official has described “terror and forced starvation” as evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Burma (Myanmar).
Concluding a four-day visit to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh this week, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour reported that while most Rohingya have fled towns near the Bangladesh border, many continue to arrive from farther-flung parts of the Rakhine.
“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,” he said in a statement released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
As of Feb 15, the International Organisation for Migration reported some 671,000 Rohingya had crossed the border into Bangladesh since 2017. A number of refugees reportedly told Gilmour that Rohingya attempting to leave their homes or villages “are taken away and never return”.
The Tatmadaw army of Burma stands accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages as part of “clearing operations” in response to an attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on military and police outposts on Aug 25 last year.
Abductions of Rohingya girls and women by Burmese security forces was a “recurring theme” said the OHCHR, corroborating accounts of sexual violence and killings provided to other UN agencies and non-profit organisations including Human Rights Watch.
“It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists,” said Gilmour, stating that the violence had now shifted 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.”
A recent report in The Irrawaddy claimed that at least 90 percent of the state’s Rohingya population have fled. “Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions,” Gilmour added.
After a four-day visit to #Rohingya refugee camps in #Bangladesh, senior @UN rights official @GilmourUN says its unthinkable to expect #Rohingya refugees to return to #Myanmar at this point as widespread and systematic violence against them persists. @UNHumanRights pic.twitter.com/oY6MTSUbvb
— UN Human Rights Asia (@OHCHRAsia) March 6, 2018
Bangladesh and Burma made an agreement last November to repatriate the refugees, a process supposed to be completed within two years which was recently postponed.
Echoing the sentiments of other UN officials, Western governments and humanitarian agencies, Gilmour thanked the poor nation of Bangladesh for its generosity in hosting the huge population of Rohingya refugees.
“Bangladesh has shown a level of generosity that is sadly lacking in many parts of the world, including in this region,” he said, calling upon Dhaka to allow Rohingya children access to education and some access to livelihood opportunities.