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UN slams continued ethnic cleansing in Rakhine

  • Published at 11:44 pm March 6th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:54 pm March 6th, 2018
UN slams continued ethnic cleansing in Rakhine
UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour has said the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas in Myanmar is still going on and raised voices over Myanmar's double standard role. "The government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that it's ready to receive Rohingya returnees, while at the same time its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh," Gilmour said. At the end of a four-day visit to Bangladesh that focused on the situation of the approximately 700,000 refugees who have fled from Myanmar since last August, he said: "I don't think we can draw any other conclusion from what I've seen and heard in Cox's Bazar." The rate of killings and sexual violence in the Rakhine state has subsided since August and September last year, according to a statement UNB received from Bangkok. But the recently arrived Rohingyas interviewed by Gilmour and other UN officials in Cox's Bazar provided credible accounts of continued killings, rape, torture and abductions, as well as forced starvation. With Maungdaw township on the border of Bangladesh already largely emptied of its Rohingya population, those arriving now are coming from townships further inside. "It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists," Gilmour said. "The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied bloodletting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh." A number of people told Gilmour that Rohingyas who try to leave their villages or even their homes are taken away and never return. One man told how his father was abducted by the Myanmar military in February. He was instructed a few days later to collect the body. He recounted that he was too afraid to ask the military what had happened to his father, but that the corpse was covered in bruises. Another man described being tied up by the Border Guard Police in his own home in January as his 17-year-old daughter was abducted. [caption id="attachment_250994" align="aligncenter" width="800"] UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour | Collected from UN website[/caption] When he screamed, they pointed a gun at his head and kicked him repeatedly. As he later tried to find her, he was picked up by them and badly beaten again, this time with the butts of guns. His daughter has not been seen since January 15. This is a recurring theme -- of women and girls abducted, never to be seen again. Their relatives fear the worst -- that they were raped and killed. "Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions. The conversation now must focus on stopping the violence in Rakhine State, ensuring accountability for the perpetrators, and the need for Myanmar to create conditions for return," said the senior UN official. During his visit, Gilmour interviewed recently arrived refugees in Kutupalong-Balukhali, which in the seven months since August last year has become the largest refugee camp in the world. After meeting with Bangladeshi officials, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations involved in the humanitarian response in Cox's Bazar, he raised alarm at the prospect of the loss of life in the camps due to the imminent rains. Bangladesh and international humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis has been very impressive but the rainy season is likely to have a devastating effect on camps such as Kutupalong, a sprawling complex of shelters made of plastic sheeting and bamboo poles located across steep valleys and hillsides that have been stripped of all vegetation, including the roots. "Having suffered so much from the manmade disaster inflicted by Myanmar, the fear is that this will be compounded by a natural disaster of heavy rainfall that will almost certainly lead to landslides and flooding. It will have the additional effect of polluting water sources through faecal sludge, causing outbreaks of cholera that could lead to many deaths," Gilmour said. In Dhaka, Gilmour met senior government officials, and commended the country's great hospitality in providing protection and shelter. "In welcoming such a massive influx of Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh has shown a level of generosity that is sadly lacking in many parts of the world, including in this region," he said. Gilmour expressed his gratitude to the Government of Bangladesh for its support to his mission and his deep admiration for their extraordinary response to the Rohingya in their hour of need.