Skip to main content

Rohingya continue to flee violence, persecution in Myanmar: UN human rights chief

A Rohingya refugee is seen in Balukhali refugee camp at dawn near Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, in a March 28, 2018, file photo.

Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Muslim Rohingya continue to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state, many testifying about violence, persecution, killings and burning of their homes by soldiers and Buddhists, the United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, in his final remarks to the Human Rights Council before stepping down on Aug 31, questioned a top Myanmar official’s assertion that the government was committed to defending the rights of all, not those of any one community.

“In my four years as High Commissioner I have heard many preposterous claims. That claim is almost in its own category of absurdity,” Zeid said. “Have you no shame, sir, have you no shame? We are not fools.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Myanmar official, Kyaw Moe Tun, director-general of its foreign ministry, did not reply to Zeid’s comments which closed the two-hour debate. After the session he could not be reached for comment.

Earlier, Kyaw said during the debate that Zeid’s report contained information that was “distorted or exaggerated.” He blamed the violence on militants who attacked Myanmar government forces.

“The root cause of the tragedy was terrorism and terrorism cannot be condoned under any circumstance,” Kyaw said.

So far this year, 11,432 Rohingya have reached Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 have fled since an August military crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, Zeid said.

“No amount of rhetoric can whitewash these facts. People are still fleeing persecution in Rakhine – and are even willing to risk dying at sea to escape,” he said.

Many Rohingya refugees also report being pressured by Myanmar authorities to accept a national verification card that says they need to apply for citizenship, he added.

The citizenship issue is at the core of discussions on their status, Zeid said, adding that the cards “mark the Rohingya as non-citizens, in keeping with the government’s characterization of them as foreigners in their own homeland.”

Story continues below advertisement

Authorities in mainly Buddhist Myanmar deny carrying out large scale human rights abuses, which the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. Authorities say a crackdown in Rakhine is a necessary response to violence by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, which attacked Myanmar security posts.

Kyaw said a top priority for his government was to find a “sustainable solution” in Rakhine. It had agreed with Bangladesh in January 2018 that repatriation of refugees would be completed within two years, he said.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter