by Al Jazeera
Myanmar is continuing its “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya, while claiming it is ready to receive them back from Bangladesh, according to a UN human rights envoy.
Andrew Gilmour, UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, made the remarks in a statement on Tuesday after speaking to newly-arrived Rohingya in Bangladesh’s refugee camps on his four-day visit to Cox’s Bazar district.
“The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues. I don’t think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox’s Bazar,” he said.
“It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists,” the statement said.
His statement also said it was “inconceivable” that any Rohingya would be able to return to Myanmar in the near future, despite Myanmar’s pledges to start taking back some refugees.
“The Government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that it is ready to receive Rohingya returnees, while at the same time its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh,” Gilmour said.
“Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions.”
“The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh.”
The Rohingya, one of the most persecuted communities in the world, are not recognised as citizens of Myanmar and face widespread discrimination from the authorities.
Prior to the current exodus, tens of thousands of Rohingya have already been living as refugees in several neighbouring countries.
The plight of the Rohingya reached its peak in Myanmar six months ago when the country’s military cracked down on the minority group in Rakhine State, sparking a mass exodus.
About 700,000 Rohingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh since the violence erupted in August, bringing with them consistent testimony of murder, rape and arson by soldiers and vigilante mobs.
Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF) has estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.
Hundreds of Rohingya villages were torched, and recent satellite imagery showed at least 55 villages have since been completely bulldozed, removing all traces of buildings, wells and vegetation.
Myanmar’s military says its crackdown was needed to root out Rohingya armed rebels who attacked border police posts in August, killing about a dozen people.
In January, Myanmar and Bangladesh announced a repatriation deal, but rights groups and Rohingya have raised concerns about the agreement, saying it does not guarantee full citizenship, or safety, for those who return.