UN warns of ethnic cleansing of Myanmar Muslims

Tuesday 12 September 2017

By SHEHAB SUMON

 

In this Sept. 7, 2017 photo, smoke rises from a burned house in Gawdu Zara village, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar. (AP)

 

DHAKA: The situation in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the UN human rights chief said, as the number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the country for Bangladesh topped 300,000.

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein accused Myanmar of waging a “systematic attack” on the Rohingya and warned that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be under way.

“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,” he told the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN refugee agency says at least 313,000 Rohingya have now arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since Aug. 25, around a third of the total population of 1.1 million.

The true figure could be even higher — the UN said many new arrivals are still on the move and are therefore left out of the calculations.

Al-Hussein said he was “appalled” by reports that Myanmar security forces were laying mines near the border to stop the Rohingya returning.

“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,” Al-Hussein said.

A large number of Rohingya refugees who took shelter on both the sides of the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf road in Bangladesh, have been shifted to the newly allocated 2,000-acre area of Ukhia Thana by local district management. Bangladesh authority is also building more makeshift houses to cater to the mammoth refugee influx over the past few days.

Bangladesh has introduced a biometric registration system for the refugees. Two booths were installed at Kutupalang and Balukhali camp in this regard while 15 more are due to be in operation soon.

Each booth will register 700 refugees in a day. The Bangladesh government passport issuing authority is conducting the registration process in coordination with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.

The diplomats and mission chiefs of different international agencies in Dhaka will visit Cox’s Bazar tomorrow to witness the condition of Rohingya refugees.

A.H. Mahmud Ali, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, told the local press that the visit was part of diplomatic pressure mounted on Myanmar to end the atrocities. Ali and his colleagues met with Asian diplomats in Dhaka on Monday to explain Dhaka’s stance and initiatives.

China and India both pledged support to Bangladesh to cope with the Rohingya refugee crisis, after that meeting.

The team earlier met with western diplomats and mission chiefs where Ali termed the persecution of Rohingya Muslims as “genocide.”

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has declared a month-long one-sided cease fire in Rakhine state to facilitate humanitarian relief activity. The ARSA commander in chief Ata Ullah announced the cease-fire in a tweet, which was rejected by the Myanmar government.

In a separate tweet, the government’s spokesperson Jaa Haate said that Myanmar government has no policy to compromise with the “terrorists.”

The refugee influx, however, still continues. On Monday a large number of refugees entered into Bangladesh through Shah Porir Dip an island in the Bay of Bengal.

“Today I noticed around 10,000 Rohingyas land here in Bangladesh; most of them are from South Mongdu of Arakan state,” Mohammed Faruk, who is also a Rohingya refugee living in Kutupalang camp for the past few years, said.

“I noticed around 2,000 more Rohingyas waiting at Shaplapur point under Teknaf Thana to get entry into Bangladesh,” he added.

The Ghumdhum and Lambabill crossing on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border — from where thousands of Rohingyas entered into Bangladesh as late as last Saturday — was virtually empty on Monday, leading some to predict that there are no more Rohingyas alive on the other side of the border.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit Rohingya camps where it is planned she will distribute relief goods among the refugees.

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