United Nations human rights investigators say death toll from the Myanmar army’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims since 25 Augusts was unknown, but “may turn out to be extremely high”.
“We have heard many accounts from people from many different villages across northern Rakhine state. They point to a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people,” Marzuki Darusman head of the UN fact-finding team said.
The team of three independent experts spent six days interviewing some of the 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state who are in refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar. An advance team of UN rights officers have been conducting comprehensive interviews for weeks, it said.
“We are deeply disturbed at the end of this visit,” Darusman said.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, another member and veteran UN human rights investigator, said she was left “shaken and angry” by the testimonies.
“One could see the trauma in the eyes of the women I interviewed. When proven, this kind of abuse must never be allowed to go unpunished,” she said.
The UN team, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council in March, renewed its appeal for access to Rakhine state and for talks with the Myanmar regime and military to “establish the facts”.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has described the plight of Rohingya Muslims as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The current crisis erupted on 25 August, when Myanmar’s army backed by gangs of Buddhist extremists brutally attacked Muslims in Rakhine state on the pretext of responding to the killing of security forces. In the ensuing operation, nearly 7,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in what is clearly an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide.