The UN rights chief called on Tuesday for a fresh international investigation into Myanmar's abuses against its Rohingya minority, warning of possible "elements of genocide."
Speaking before a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the abuses against the Rohingya, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein condemned "widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal" attacks against the Rohingya, as well as decades of discrimination and persecution.
The rights council rarely holds special sessions, which can only be convened at the request of at least a third of its 47 member states, or 16 countries.
Tuesday's session was held at the request of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, with the support of 33 council members and more than 40 observer states.
During the session, Bangladesh State minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam warned that the massive exodus over such a short period was "comparable only with the exodus following the 1994 Rwanda genocide."
An army-led crackdown has forced more than 626,000 people to flee from northern Rakhine state and across the border into squalid camps in Bangladesh in recent months, leaving hundreds of villages burned to the ground.
Myanmar's military denies accusations by the UN and US that it has committed ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.
But Zeid decried policies that had dehumanised and segregated the minority, and left it wallowing in statelessness for decades.
He described horrific violence and abuse, including allegations of "killing by random firing of bullets, use of grenades, shooting at close range, stabbings, beatings to death and the burning of houses with families inside."
"Given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?" Zeid asked the 47-member council.
Zeid also lamented the refusal inside Myanmar but also by some international players to even name the Rohingyas, creating "a shameful paradox: they are denied a name, while being targeted for being who they are."
Myanmar's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Htin Lynn, did not address those accusations, but insisted to the council that the humanitarian situation at its border with Bangladesh was of "paramount concern," and that Yangon was "making every effort to resolve the issue."
He also denied Zeid's claim that Yangon was doing little to rein in hate speech and incitement to violence against the minority, insisting "my government is doing everything possible to deter these individual acts."
But Zeid slammed the government's inaction, warning that "by continuing to dehumanise the Rohingya, the state authorities will fuel even wider levels of violence in the future, drawing in communities from across the region."