Jyoti Sanghera, head of the Asia and Pacific region of the UN human rights office, called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to “stop the violence” and voiced fear that if the stateless Rohingya refugees return from Bangladesh they may be interned.
“If villages have been completely destroyed and livelihood possibilities have been destroyed, what we fear is that they may be incarcerated or detained in camps,” she told a news briefing. The UN experts documented Myanmar security forces “firing indiscriminately at Rohingya villagers, injuring and killing other innocent victims, setting houses on fire”.
“Almost all testimonies indicated that people were shot at close range and in the back while they tried to flee in panic,” the report said.
Myanmar security forces have driven out half a million Muslim Rohingya from northern Rakhine state, torching their homes, crops, and villages to prevent them from returning, the UN human rights office said. It was “highly likely” that Myanmar security forces planted landmines along the border in recent weeks to prevent Rohingya from returning.
The UN human rights office said that “clearance operations” had begun before insurgent attacks on police posts on 25 August and included killings, torture and rape of children. UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein – who has described the government operations as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” – said in a statement that the actions appeared to be “a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return”.
“Credible information indicates that the Myanmar security forces purposely destroyed the property of the Rohingyas, scorched their dwellings and entire villages in northern Rakhine State, not only to drive the population out in droves but also to prevent the fleeing Rohingya victims from returning to their homes,” the report said. It said the destruction by security forces, often joined by mobs of armed Rakhine Buddhists, of houses, fields, food stocks, crops, and livestock made the possibility of Rohingya returning to normal lives in northern Rakhine “almost impossible”. The campaign was “well-organised, coordinated and systematic” and began with Rohingya men under 40 being arrested a month earlier, creating a “climate of fear and intimidation”. The military campaign is popular in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where there is little sympathy for the Rohingya, and for Muslims in general, and where Buddhist nationalism has surged.