The deadly security operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is apparently designed to rid the country of the Muslim Rohingya minority, UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein charged on Monday.
“The current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” he told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The UN rights chief said he was appalled that Myanmar has reportedly started laying mines on its border with Bangladesh, and that refugees are only allowed to come back home if they provide proof of their nationality, even though most Rohingya are stateless.
“This measure resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return,” Zeid said.
Some 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since an attack by Rohingya militants on 30 police posts in late August triggered a massive response by the government.
“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Zeid said.
Even before the current crackdown, authorities had committed widespread violations against the Rohingya, which could amount to crimes against humanity if the matter were tried in a court, he added.
“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation” and to stop discriminating against Rohingya, Zeid said.
On Sunday, a Rohingya militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) declared a one-month ceasefire against Myanmar troops, but the appeal was rejected by the Myanmar government.
“We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists,” Zaw Htay, a director general in the State Counsellor’s office, wrote on Twitter.