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Myanmar situation “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” – UN human rights chief

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, pictured in February 2016. Image: US Mission/Eric Bridiers/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

An apparent “systematic attack” on the Rohingya community in Myanmar “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the United Nations human rights chief said on Monday, September 11.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council that the pattern of human rights violations against the Rohingya suggested a systematic attack “possibly amounting to crimes against humanity.”

“Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Zeid said.

The International Organization for Migration estimates 313,000 people have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in less than three weeks due to the ongoing security operation, with many more reportedly trapped between the two countries. Myanmar says that the operation is in response to militants attacking police stations in Rakhine state on August 25.

Zeid called on the government to end its “cruel military operation” which he said is “clearly disproportionate and without regard for basic principles of international law.”

The UNOCHR has received reports of security forces and local militias burning Rohingya villages and “consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Zeid said.

“The Myanmar Government should stop claiming that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” he said. “This complete denial of reality is doing great damage to the international standing of a Government which, until recently, benefited from immense good will.”

Zeid said that he is “appalled by reports that the Myanmar authorities have now begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh,” a reference to a recent Amnesty International report.

He called on the government to “reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population.”

Myanmar officials have said that Rohingya refugees can only return if they provide proof of nationality, Zeid said, a measure that “resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return.”

Zeid explained that since 1962, governments have “progressively stripped the Rohingya population of their political and civil rights, including citizenship rights – as acknowledged by Aung San Suu Kyi’s own appointed Rakhine Advisory Commission.”

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