UN Condemns Atrocities Against Myanmar’s Rohingya, Other Minorities

GENEVA - The UN Human Rights office reports the Myanmar military continues to attack, persecute and commit gross violations against the Rohingya Muslims three years after similar actions triggered a mass exodus of more than 750,000 Rohingya to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The report has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

Myanmar military operations three years ago have created a terrible human rights crisis, which is far from being resolved. A UN fact-finding mission in 2019 concluded many of the violations by the military amounted to crimes against humanity, in some cases bordering on genocide.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet says the Rohingya and other minorities are increasingly victimized by the armed conflict in Rakhine and Chin States. She says civilians are subject to disappearances and extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths in custody.

United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet adjusts her glasses during the opening of 45th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European U.N. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 14, 2020.

“Civilian casualties have also been increasing. In some cases, they appear to have been targeted or attacked indiscriminately, which may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity," said Bachelet. "It is troubling that a number of satellite images and eyewitness accounts indicate that areas in northern Rakhine have been burnt in recent months.”

Bachelet notes Myanmar has said repeatedly it wants to resolve the Rohingya crisis and ensure refugees can return to their places of origin in dignity and safety. She says the government must act now to make this happen by ending the serious violations against the Rohingya people.

Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, blames the 2017 exodus of the Rohingya on terrorist attacks. He says they were deliberate attempts to derail efforts to find a solution to Rhakine. He says the government fully shares the concerns of all affected communities and is willing and able to address the issue of accountability.

The ambassador says his government is working closely with various UN agencies and ASEAN to implement the bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the repatriation, resettlement and development of Rohingya returnees to Rakhine State.

The Chair of the Advisory Board of Progressive Voice, a local Myanmar human rights research and advocacy organization, is not persuaded by the ambassador’s conciliatory tone. Khin Ohmar says the civil war in Myanmar has reached an intensity not seen in decades with immense consequences on the local ethnic communities. She calls a government peace conference held in August meaningless.

“The failure of the peace process is marked by the ongoing grave international crimes that continue to be committed throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State, by the same perpetrators that committed genocide against the Rohingya," said Ohmar. "Yet, no one is being held to account and the Myanmar military continues to act with total impunity.”

Ohmar is calling on the international community to cut its business ties with the military conglomerates and to impose a moratorium on arms transfer to Myanmar. She urges UN member states and the Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an ad hoc tribunal.