UN Envoy Says ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingya Still Occurring in Myanmar’s Rakhine

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Newly arrived Rohingya refugees rest along a roadside in the town of Teknaf in southeastern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district after fleeing Myanmar, Feb. 22, 2018.
Newly arrived Rohingya refugees rest along a roadside in the town of Teknaf in southeastern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district after fleeing Myanmar, Feb. 22, 2018.

A United Nations envoy said Tuesday that ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya is continuing in northern Rakhine state, as Myanmar prepares to accept back the Muslim refugees from neighboring Bangladesh where they are living in sprawling camps.

Andrew Gilmour, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said Myanmar is continuing its “campaign of terror and forced starvation” against the minority ethnic group in northern Rakhine state.

Gilmour and other U.N. officials interviewed newly arrived Rohingya in displacement camps in southeastern Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, who provided accounts of ongoing torture, rape, and abductions, as well as forced starvation.

A brutal military crackdown six months ago drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya from Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships across the border in what the U.N. and United States have said amount to ethnic cleansing.

As Myanmar and Bangladesh prepare to repatriate refugees who wish to return voluntarily to Rakhine, hundreds of Rohingya are still arriving in Bangladesh amid recent reports of continued violence and accusations that local authorities have bulldozed abandoned Rohingya communities and farmland.

Though the Myanmar government says it has been distributing food to people in the affected areas, Rohingya residents have reported that the military has blocked supplies to try to starve them out.

“The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues,” Gilmour said in a statement issued Monday at the end of a four-day visit to the refugee camps. “I don't think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox's Bazar,” he said.

“The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied bloodletting 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.

With Maungdaw township on the border of Bangladesh already largely emptied of its Rohingya population, those arriving now are coming from towns in Rakhine’s interior, Gilmour said.

The U.N. and rights groups have warned against a hasty repatriation of the Rohingya, fearing that they will continue to face systematic discrimination, if not violence, in Myanmar.

Gilmour took the same stance, arguing that the refugees could not return at this point because of continued threats of killings and rape, the impossibility of living in northern Rakhine given that livelihoods and food sources have been wiped out, and the absence of any willingness to address the root causes of systematic discrimination against the Muslim minority group.

‘It is impossible’

Maung Ohn, a Rakhine state lawmaker who represents Maungdaw township where new structures for returnees are being built, rejected Gilmour’s comments and said refugees have been re-entering Myanmar without being processed by repatriation centers that authorities have set up.

“A U.N. human rights envoy said Myanmar is continuing its ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Rohingya with a ‘campaign of terror and forced starvation’ in Rakhine state, but it is impossible,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“We know that many Bengali refugees have been reentering into Myanmar in Maungdaw township,” he said, using a derogatory term for the Rohingya who are viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Mang Ohn said the Rohingya who are returning have been clandestinely crossing the border without going to the repatriation centers, and their willingness to return indicates that the Myanmar government is not taking actions that cause them harm or create more refugees.

His assertions, which repeat consistent denials by Myanmar officials that Rohingya have been subject to ethnic cleansing, could not be independently verified in an area that is largely off limits to reporters and rights monitors.

“It is like the U.N. is inciting the other side by saying this,” Maung Ohn said.

Local ethnic Rakhine people who live in the region are worried about their security and safety because there are no government troops in most places, he said.

“The security forces are [stationed] along the border areas to check if there are any terrorists among those who return home from Bangladesh,” he said in a reference to members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which conducted deadly raids and attacks on border guard stations and police outposts in northern Rakhine in October 2016 and August 2017, respectively.

“Many people are entering Myanmar, and we don’t know if there are any terrorists among them,” Maung Ohn said. “Security forces have to check these people as it is their duty, but it is not ‘ethnic cleansing.’”

He compared the current situation to a previous bout of violence in northern Rakhine in 1978 when the Myanmar army conducted a large-scale operation called Operation Nagamin (Dragon King) to disarm and expel Rohingya insurgents.

Soldiers conducted mass arrests and tortured those believed to be collaborators and sympathizers, driving more than 200,000 Rohingya to safety in Bangladesh. The refugees who settled temporarily in makeshift camps reported atrocities by security forces, including rape and murder.

“Many of them fled to Bangladesh at that time, but they returned home in 1979, and we had to accept 20,000 more than the number of those who originally fled to Bangladesh,” Maung Ohn said. “This time it will be the same, I think.”

A Myanmar security guard keeps watch along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border as Rohingya refugees stand outside their makeshift shelters near Tombru in southeastern Bangladesh's Bandarban district, March 1, 2018.
A Myanmar security guard keeps watch along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border as Rohingya refugees stand outside their makeshift shelters near Tombru in southeastern Bangladesh's Bandarban district, March 1, 2018. Credit: AFP
Rights groups speak out

In response to Gilmour’s comments, London-based Amnesty International said Myanmar authorities must cease all activities aimed at forcing the Rohingya out of Rakhine.

“The UN’s findings sadly echo our own — there is no question that the Myanmar authorities’ vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya is still ongoing, said James Gomez, the group’s director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement issued Tuesday. “Fleeing Rohingya told us how they are still being forcibly starved in a bid to quietly squeeze them out of the country.”

“This is yet more evidence that any plans for organized repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh are extremely premature,” he said. “No one should be returned to Myanmar until they can do so voluntarily, in safety and dignity — something that is clearly not possible today.

“The Myanmar authorities must end all operations aimed at forcing Rohingya out of their homeland, whether at gunpoint or through starvation,” he said. “It is also high time the international community took meaningful action, including by imposing an arms embargo and targeted sanctions.”

Last week, the European Union condemned “ongoing, widespread, systematic grave human rights violations” by the Myanmar army and demanded restrictive sanctions against military generals responsible for brutality against the Rohingya.

The United States and Canada have already imposed sanctions on Myanmar military officers, including Major General Maung Maung Soe, head of the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, who led the military’s crackdown on the Rohingya.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) issued a report in the Rohingya crisis based on the findings of a fact-finding mission to Bangladesh that some of the organization’s members took in January.

The delegation, which included lawmakers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, visited the capital Dhaka and displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar where they interviewed government officials, refugees, and humanitarian assistance workers to collect information on human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar and in Bangladesh.

“Visiting the camps and speaking directly with refugees provided an important window into what they want and need,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian lawmaker and ARHR’s chairman, in a statement. “The harrowing stories we heard only bolstered our collective resolve as regional lawmakers to speak out and promote accountability and justice for the undeniable atrocities perpetrated against them.”

Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (1)

Sai Cliff Lin Kan

The UN Human Rights' official allegation to Burmese Government continuing carrying out ethnic cleansing against illegal immigrant Bengali peoples is absurd and lied. The Bengali peoples are still leaving for Bangladesh as their own wish and no one has forcing and threatening them to leave the Rakhine State, Burma. The refugees will lie to get aid and money from official and the journalists.
The ethnic cleansing was never happening in Rakhine State or other parts of Burma.

The UN Human Rights’ Commissioner Office is biased and campaigning hatred against Buddhist Burma. The Rakhine problem was started by the UN’s creation and invention of new ethnic identity for illegal Bengali immigrant in Rakhine State, Burma. The former UN Chief Ban Ki-moon thought if the UN has recognized the illegal immigrant Bengali from Bangladeshi as a native ethnic minority in Rakhine state and then Burmese Government and peoples have to accept illegal immigrant Bengali peoples their own.

Ban Ki-moon was short sighted and didn’t see the problem. The prominent leading political and activist Burmese Muslim U Mya Aye has blamed Ban Ki-moon for recognition of illegal immigrant Bengali peoples as Rohingya ethnic. He said those so called Rohingya Bengali Muslims are not ethnic minority of Burma and they are illegal immigrant Bengali Muslim from Bangladesh. The Bengali Muslims are trying to bond with other Burmese Muslims. The Buddhists and Muslims communal violence in Burma was the result of Ban Ki-moon recognition of illegal immigrant Bengali as Rohingya ethnic.
The illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims and other Buddhist Burmese ethnic in Rakhine state have no big problem between them before Ban Ki-moon recognized the illegal immigrant Bengali peoples as Rohingya ethnic of native Rakhine. The Bengali so called Rohingya leaders have sought help from Middle East Governments and Islamic religious leaders for to establish a Muslim state in Northern Rakhine State, Burma after the UN recognized them as Rohingya ethnic.
The UN involvement in Rakhine state does not help because the UN officials are dishonest and they always blame on Buddhists for the problem. They see Muslims as saints and they blind-eye and ignored the crimes committed by Bengali Muslims. The Buddhist Burmese peoples see the UN as biased organization and its standing for Muslims and discriminating against Buddhist peoples.
The Bengali Muslims left for Bangladesh as their own wish but the UN Human Rights official has accused the Burmese Government for continuing ethnic cleansing against so called Rohingya Bengali Muslims. I do not surprise about Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s deputy use of ethnic cleansing words because he has to carry out his boss’ order. The UN Human Rights' Commissioner is using ethnic cleansing words to benefit of Muslims and Islam religion.
The UN, HRW, foreign journalist and Western Governments are scared of speaking out about truth and cowardly carrying out attacking Buddhist Burmese peoples and Burmese Government for the behalf of Governments from Middle East.
They are portraying Buddhist Burmese peoples as evil and racist peoples. Now I avoid telling my Burmese ethnic identity if someone asked me where I come from. I’ll tell I’m Thais instead of Burmese because I afraid of attacking by Muslims. They are becoming deputy to the OIC. They are morally and ethically corrupt peoples. They have no integrity whatsoever.
The British Government siding with Bangladesh Government and so called Rohingya Bengali Muslim is shameful and obnoxious. The British Government should be neutral and helping to sort out the problem which the British Government created.
The British brought Bengali Muslims into Burma and allowed Bengali Muslims illegally settled in Buthitaung and Maungdaw area in Northern Rakhine state, from the British India while the British were ruling Burma. The British Government has secretly planned for to take away Chittagong Hill Tracts and Manipur from Burma, prior to the British give Burma. The British Government had tried to divide between majority Burmese ethnic and other ethnic minority groups before giving independence to Burma. The civil war has broken out in Burma and Burmese peoples have lost General Aung San and other 7 Burmese independent leaders as a result of the British Government’s dirty job.
I have no doubt about Burma will become closer to China and Russia lead block.
The Russian and Chinese Governments are protecting and defending Burma at the UN Security Council. The allegation against the Burmese Government brought by the UN Human Rights’ Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the UN Security Council meeting was false and he has fabricated ethnic cleansing, raped and massacre stories to convince the UN Security members for to establish the UN monitor a Safe Zone for illegal Bengali Muslims. He and the OIC have bigger plan for to create a new independent Muslim state in Northern Rakhine State.

The UN, HRW and foreign journalists are misleading peoples around the world by spreading and publishing misinformation about Rakhine state.
They have ignored the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA and illegal immigrant Bengali villagers attacking on Buddhists and Hindus villagers. The Islamic terrorist group the ARSA and Bengali Muslim villagers are committing war crimes by carrying out rape, kidnap, and murder against Buddhist Rakhine and Hindu villagers, but the UN Human Rights, HRW, the OIC and foreign journalists are surprisingly silent about the crime committing by the ARSA and Bengali Muslim villagersIt looks like the Islamic terrorists are giving the green light by the UN Human Rights, the OIC and the foreign journalist and they give the ARSA Islamic terrorists permission to carry out attack on Buddhist peoples in the Rakhine state.
The UN has forced Burma to accept so called Rohingya Bengali Muslim as native Burmese ethnic of Rakhine state. Now the UN Human Rights’ Commissioner and the OIC are trying to establish the UN monitor a Safe Zone for illegal immigrant Bengali in Northern Rakhine State by using all dirty strategies. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is not giving up about his plan for establishing a Muslim state in Rakhine state.

Mar 07, 2018 01:22 PM





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