JAKARTA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced on Monday the Myanmar military’s operation which has led to over 688,000 members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya ethnicity fleeing to Bangladesh.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Husein was speaking in Jakarta at the start of an official visit to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
“Although any definitive finding should be made by an appropriate tribunal, my Office considers that acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing may have occurred,” Al Husein said of the Myanmar soldiers’ alleged actions against the Rohingya community.
The current exodus began after the Myanmar security forces launched an operation in retaliation to an Aug. 25, 2017 attack by Rohingya rebels on several security posts in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh.
Refugees have denounced “brutal killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, atrocious sexual violence, and destruction of homes and livelihoods,” the commissioner said at the Jakarta Conversation on the 70th Year of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, considering them to be undocumented Bengali immigrants.
The Burmese government has long been accused of discrimination against the minority, including restricting their freedom of movement.
“This latest campaign of violence is the culmination of five decades of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya,” Zeid said.
The Myanmar Army denies the allegations of abuse, but did acknowledge one case of extrajudicial killings of Rohingyas who were buried in a mass grave in the western state of Rakhine.
On Monday, Zeid began a three-day official visit to Indonesia where he is scheduled to meet with the president, Joko Widodo, and local human rights associations, activists and religious leaders.
The high commissioner is set to travel to Papua New Guinea on Feb. 8, and will visit Fiji between Feb. 9-12.