Saturday Star

UN report details sytematic rape, ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas


GENEVA: Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burnt their villages since October in a campaign that probably amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly “ethnic cleansing”, the UN human rights office has said.

Witnesses had testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destructio­n of food and sources of food”, the report said.

One woman told UN investigat­ors how her eightmonth baby boy allegedly had his throat slit. Another was raped”by soldiers and saw her five-year-old daughter allegedly killed as she tried to stop them.

“The devastatin­g cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable,” said UN High Commission­er for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

About 66 000 people have fled from the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine State to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military launched an operation in response to attacks on police border posts on Octocer 9, the report said.

The UN humanitari­an office has recently put the figure at 69 000. “The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in hundreds of deaths, some of them through helicopter­s shooting at villages and dropping grenades on them,” the UN report said.

Four UN investigat­ors gathered testimony last month from 220 Rohingya victims and witnesses who fled the “lockdown area” in Maungdaw in Rakhine for the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh.

Nearly half reported a family member had been killed or disappeare­d while 101 women reported having been raped or subjected to sexual violence, it said.

The plight of the stateless Rohingya, of whom about 1.1 million live in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, has been a source of friction between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist country where Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is the actual leader, has denied almost all allegation­s, and says a lawful counter-insurgency campaign is under way.

In Yangon, the spokespers­on for President Htin Kyaw’s office said: “We will review the report from the UN and we will respond, either in an official statement or in an individual response (to questions).”

While denying observers and journalist­s access to the conflict area, officials have accused Rohingya residents and refugees of fabricatin­g stories of killings, beatings, mass rape and arson in collaborat­ion with insurgents who they say are Rohingya terrorists with links to Islamists overseas.

Zeid called for a robust reaction from the internatio­nal community, and said Myanmar must accept responsibi­lity for committing grave human rights violations against its own people.

The report said the attacks on the Rohingya “seem to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity”.

Bangladesh is determined to relocate Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar to an island in the Bay of Bengal, a Bangladesh­i minister said. Critics say the island is uninhabita­ble.

The minister said that the move was temporary, and Myanmar would ultimately have to take the Rohingya back. – Reuters

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