Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Source: Wikimedia
A group of Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have urged the UN Security Council to end Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, targeting Rakhine State’s Rohingya community.
A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman has told the media that at least 43,000 Rohingya had arrived in Bangladesh since October 9, when three Myanmar police outposts were allegedly attacked, prompting a large crackdown on Muslim civilians.
Nay Pyi Taw blamed the Rohingyas for supporting foreign militants for the attacks which killed nine police officers. None of the government’s claims can be independently verified as the media and NGOs are prevented from reaching the area.
Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, is home to the Rohingya, who are loathed by many of the country’s Buddhist majority and often called “Bengalis”, implying they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s government continues to deny the Rohingya citizenship.
In an open letter to the Security Council, Tutu and 22 others, including fellow Nobel peace laureates José Ramos-Horta and Muhammad Yunus, said a “human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar”.
“We are frustrated that she [Suu Kyi] has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas,” the letter argued.
“Ms Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets.”
The letter drew parallels with Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s western Darfur region, Bosnia and Kosovo.
The signatories to the letter said even if Rohingya were involved in the October 9 attacks, the Tatmadaw’s response had been “grossly disproportionate”.
Around 50,000 Rohingya had fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, Dhaka’s foreign ministry announced.
Bangladesh has increased border patrols to try to deny entry to more refugees fleeing the crackdown in supposedly democratic Myanmar.
The foreign ministry summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to voice “deep concern at the continued influx” of tens of thousands of the Muslim minority.
“[We] mentioned that around 50,000 Myanmar citizens took shelter into Bangladesh since October 9,” the ministry said.
Bangladesh also demanded repatriation of migrants from Myanmar, including around 300,000 Rohingya, most of whom are there illegally.
Most Rohingya are sheltering in Bangladesh’s resort district of Cox’s Bazar.
Many tell of gang rape, torture and murder by the Tatmadaw.
Nay Pyi Taw denies the allegations.
Dhaka has been under pressure to open its border to refugees.
Bangladesh’s border guards have prevented hundreds of boats packed with thousands of Rohingya women and children from entering the country.