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Persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’- UN

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Myanmar’s military operations against its minority Rohingya people has been denounced as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In his address to the 36th session of the UN’s Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein began by focusing on the crisis in Myanmar, from where nearly 300,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee over the past three weeks as the military conducts ‘clearance operations’.

“In Myanmar, another brutal security operation is underway in Rakhine State – this time, apparently on a far greater scale…. We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians…”

According to the Myanmar government, 421 people have died in the military operation; however, according to a UN rapporteur, the conservative figure of people killed so far is at least 1,000.

The Commissioner also added this admonishment.

“The Myanmar Government should stop claiming that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages… I call on the Government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population.”

The current military operation is being conducted ostensibly against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant outfit that on August 25 carried out a simultaneous assault against 30 police posts in Rakhine State.

Rohingya refugees in neighboring Bangladesh have harrowing tales from their encounters with the security forces, including being hit by fragmentation devices, suffering mortar attacks, and stumbling upon the slit throats of their loved ones.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a highly persecuted minority in Myanmar; they are estimated to be about 1.2 million, and are primarily Muslims in otherwise Buddhist Myanmar.

They are effectively stateless, as the Myanmar government doesn’t  recognize them as being among the 135 ethnic groups of Myanmar; they are instead identified as ‘Bengalis’, a term which reinforces the notion that they are immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, despite claiming ancestry in Rakhine State centuries before the establishment of Myanmar.

Rakhine State is one big open-air prison to the Rohingya who live there, according to some refugees; their rights to education and free movement are highly restricted, with even laws in the past placed to limit the number of children to two.