Much of the Rohingya community has been forced to live in camps since 2012 riots. Source: Flickr
The UN says Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned down their homes since October, probably amounting to crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing.
“The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in hundreds of deaths,” the UN’s human rights office reported.
It said the violence against the Rohingya had been widespread and seemingly systematic, involving killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other sexual violence, arbitrary detention and deportation, “indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity”.
The report, which was based on interviews with 204 Rohingya refugees among an estimated 66,000 who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since October, recounted brutal violations allegedly carried out by the armed forces or civilian militias working alongside the authorities.
More than half of the 101 women interviewed said they had been raped or sexually assaulted and mothers said their young children, including a newborn, were trampled or cut to death.
The report said the intensity and frequency of military operations had been declining so far this year but they were still continuing.
“The violence is still ongoing, people are still fleeing,” said UN mission leader Linnea Arvidsson. “The most important thing that needs to happen now is for this to stop.”
Security forces reportedly opened fire at people fleeing and burning entire villages, as well as “massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”.
Tun Khin, a Rohingya activist, called for the international community to change its “soft approach” towards Nay Pyi Taw.
“Every day Rohingya are facing abuses and extra-judicial killings are going on,” said Tun Khin, who leads the UK-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation.
“The [UN Security Council] has to come up with a strong binding resolution to take action against the Myanmar government,” he said.
The UN said there were reports of three children aged six or younger being “slaughtered with knives”.
“An eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers,” the report said.
Mosques were occupied by soldiers, used as sites for rape or burned down, the report explained.
“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk?” UN rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein asked. “What kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?”
The authorities are yet to comment.