U.N.: Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya is 'textbook ethnic cleansing'

By Brooks Hays   |   Sept. 11, 2017 at 2:25 PM
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Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Myanmar and the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, are the target of increasing international criticism for the treatment of Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority living in the nation's Rakhine state.

On Monday, the United Nation's chief of human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, told members of the human rights council that Myanmar's ongoing persecution of the Rohingya people is a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Violence in the Rakhine state has forced thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flea across the border into Bangladesh.

The United Nations is working to set up shelters and healthcare facilities -- as well as provide clean water -- for the more than 290,000 Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh.

Back in Myanmar, the government says it is fighting insurgent terrorists. Last month, Rohingya militants attacked several security posts, killing a dozen police. The attack inspired a crackdown by Myanmar's military.

Rohingya residents say the response by Myanmar's military has been disproportionate. The counteroffensive has claimed the lives of at least 400 people, so far, and locals say government forces are burning their villages and forcing them from their homes. Government officials have said otherwise.

"The Myanmar government should stop claiming that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages," Hussein said. "This complete denial of reality is doing great damage to the international standing of a government which, until recently, benefited from immense good will.

"I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population," Hussein continued. "I strongly urge the authorities to allow my office unfettered access to the country."

On Saturday, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a group of rebel militants, announced a month-long cease-fire and asked Myanmar forces to also lay down their weapons. The government declined the cease-fire.

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