Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority seems to be a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing, the top United Nations human rights official has said, while Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister called it “genocide.”
In an address to the United Nations human rights council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the “brutal security operation” against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, which he said was “clearly disproportionate” to insurgent attacks carried out last month, according to the Guardian newspaper.
More than 290,000 people have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, with more trapped on the border, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings.
“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” Zeid said.
“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
On Sunday Bangladesh’s foreign minister accused the Burmese government of committing genocide against the Rohingya.
“The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide,” AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka on Sunday.
Ali met Western and Arab diplomats and the heads of UN agencies based in Bangladesh to seek support for a political solution and humanitarian aid for the Rohingya.
He told the diplomats that some 300,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks, taking the total number of such refugees in the country to more than 700,000.
“It is now a national problem,” Ali said.
According to Al Jazeera, at least two diplomats who attended the briefings said the minister told them as many as 3,000 people may have been killed in the latest round of violence, which is a much higher estimate than the 1,000 previously reported by the United Nations.
Ali’s comments come as the chair of Bangladesh’s National Commission for Human Rights said leading figures in Myanmar could face trial for “genocide” at an international tribunal.
“The way the genocide has been carried out in Myanmar, the way the people were killed in arson attacks, we are thinking about pressing for a trial against Myanmar, and against the Myanmar army at an international tribunal,” Kazi Reazul Hoque said on Sunday while visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar.
“We will come to a decision after assessing what are the steps that should be taken to that end. And at the same time we urge the international community to come forward with their help,” Hoque said.
Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Myanmar’s military has faced international condemnation over its treatment of the Rohingya.
The mainly Muslim minority, who live primarily in Rakhine State, are not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations.
They have been denied citizenship and are stateless.
Many in Buddhist-majority country consider the Rohingya as “Bengali”, rejecting the term Rohingya as a recent invention.
Bangladesh’s Ali accused Myanmar of running a “malicious propaganda” campaign to term the Rohingya as “illegal migrants from Bangladesh” and the fighters as “Bengali terrorists”.
Ali described actions following the attacks on security forces on August 25 as “revenge” by Myanmar troops.
“Should all people be killed? Should all villages be burnt? It is not acceptable,” he said, adding Dhaka was seeking a peaceful solution, not a “war” against Myanmar.
“We did not create the problem. Since the problem started in Myanmar, that’s why they should resolve. We have said we’ll help them,” he said, adding that the problem took a “new turn” after the August 25 attacks.