UN human rights chief highlights ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims as Myanmar violence continues

  • UN human rights chief accused Myanmar of waging a 'systematic attack' on the Rohingya Muslims

UNITED NATIONS – United Nations Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council on Monday that the situation in Myanmar was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

In his first categoric statement denouncing the violence in Rakhine, the UN human rights chief accused Myanmar of waging a “systematic attack” on the Rohingya Muslims and warned that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be underway.

“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 forum.

The rights chief is the latest to join the chorus of world leaders calling upon de facto Myanmar’s leader Aang San Suu Kyi to pay heed to the violence in Rakhine that led to an exodus of Muslims to Bangladesh.

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Earlier, on Friday, Buddhist leader Dalai Lama conveyed that the Buddha would have helped Muslims in Myanmar.

Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu also called upon the Myanmar administration to resolve the issue.

“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” Tutu said in a statement.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday also condemned Myanmar for ‘systematic brutal acts’ against its Rohingya Muslims asking it to accept international monitors.

A fresh spree of violence sparked international controversy on August 25 when a few insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base.

The attacks triggered a sweep by the Myanmar security forces, in which refugees and right groups say many innocent Rohingya have been targeted.

The recent deadliest violence in Myanmar’s north-west has so far claimed nearly 400 lives, with the army claiming it is conducting operations against “extremist terrorists”.

The region has witnessed tension between its Buddhist and Muslim populations since communal violence broke out in 2012.

By comparison, communal violence in 2012 in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, led to the killing of nearly 200 people and the displacement of about 140,000, most of them Rohingya.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, evacuated more than 11,700 “ethnic residents” from the area affected by the fighting, the army said, referring to the non-Muslim population of northern Rakhine.

The treatment of Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by some Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.