UN slams ‘bru­tal’ Myan­mar

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Ben Si­mon

MYAN­MAR’S “sys­tem­atic” crack­down on the Ro­hingya is aimed at per­ma­nently ex­pelling the mi­nor­ity Mus­lim com­mu­nity from their home in Rakhine state, the United Na­tions said yes­ter­day.

The UN re­port, which is based on in­ter­views with refugees who have fled to Bangladesh, de­tails a cam­paign by Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary to ter­rorise the Ro­hingya through atroc­i­ties that range from in­dis­crim­i­nate killings to rape.

“Bru­tal at­tacks against Ro­hingya in north­ern Rakhine State have been wellor­gan­ised, co­or­di­nated and sys­tem­atic, with the in­tent of not only driv­ing the pop­u­la­tion out of Myan­mar but pre­vent­ing them from re­turn­ing to their homes,” the UN said.

UN re­searchers spoke to peo­ple who ar­rived in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area since Au­gust 25, when mil­i­tant at­tacks on Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forces in Rakhine sparked a ma­jor mil­i­tary back­lash.

More than half a mil­lion peo­ple have fled, UN fig­ures show.

But the probe found the lat­est wave of mil­i­tary “clear­ance op­er­a­tions” in Rakhine ac­tu­ally be­gan be­fore that date, pos­si­bly in early Au­gust, con­tra­dict­ing gov­ern­ment claims that the crack­down was a re­sponse to mil­i­tant strikes.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion out­lines an army-led cam­paign to erase the Ro­hingya’s con­nec­tion to their home­land in the ma­jor­ity Bud­dhist na­tion, where they have suf­fered per­se­cu­tion for decades.

Myan­mar’s troops also of­ten op­er­ate “in con­cert with armed Rakhine Bud­dhist in­di­vid­u­als”, the UN said.

“In some cases, be­fore and dur­ing the at­tacks, mega­phones were used to an­nounce: ‘You do not be­long here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you,’” it said.

Land­mines, sex­ual vi­o­lence

The find­ings were based on in­ter­views con­ducted in Bangladesh be­tween Septem­ber 14 and 24, with re­searchers find­ing ev­i­dence of abuses de­signed to “in­stil deep and wide­spread fear” among the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion.

This in­cluded ac­counts of sol­diers sur- round­ing homes and fir­ing in­dis­crim­i­nately as res­i­dents ran for their lives as well as uni­formed men gang-rap­ing women and girls, some as young as 5. One state­ment,“re­ceived by an ex­tremely cred­i­ble source, re­ferred to a [preg­nant] woman whose stom­ach was slit open after she was raped”, the re­port said.

Speak­ing to re­porters in Geneva, re­searcher Thomas Hu­necke also said the UN had “very cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion” Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary had planted land­mines along the Bangladesh bor­der. “It is highly likely that these mines have been planted in or­der to pre­vent the Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion from re­turn­ing”, he said.

Teach­ers, as well as cul­tural, re­li­gious and com­mu­nity lead­ers have also been tar­geted in the lat­est crack­down “in an ef­fort to di­min­ish Ro­hingya his­tory, cul­ture and knowl­edge”, the re­port said. “Ef­forts were taken to ef­fec­tively erase signs of mem­o­rable land­marks in the ge­og­ra­phy of the Ro­hingya land­scape and mem­ory in such a way that a re­turn to their lands would yield noth­ing but a des­o­late and un­recog­nis­able ter­rain.”

The UN team said it spoke to hun­dreds of peo­ple in a se­ries of 65 in­ter­views, some with in­di­vid­u­als and some with groups of up to 40 peo­ple.

EU cuts ties with mil­i­tary

Mean­while, the EU is to halt ties with se­nior Myan­mar mil­i­tary chiefs to protest the “dis­pro­por­tion­ate use of force” against the Ro­hingya, ac­cord­ing to an agree­ment seen by AFP yes­ter­day.

The bloc also warns it could con­sider sanc­tions if there is no im­prove­ment in the cri­sis.

The agree­ment, ap­proved by EU am­bas­sadors and set to be signed off at a meet­ing of for­eign min­is­ters on Mon­day, said the rapid flight of so many peo­ple “strongly in­di­cates a de­lib­er­ate ac­tion to ex­pel a mi­nor­ity”.

“In the light of the dis­pro­por­tion­ate use of force car­ried out by the se­cu­rity forces, the EU and its mem­ber states will sus­pend in­vi­ta­tions to the com­man­der-in-chief of the Myan­mar/ Burma armed forces and se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and re­view all prac­ti­cal de­fence co­op­er­a­tion,” the agree­ment says, while call­ing on all sides to end vi­o­lence im­me­di­ately.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP

Ro­hingya refugees wait in line dur­ing a food dis­tri­bu­tion at the Thangkhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi dis­trict of Ukhia on Tues­day.

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