Myanmar uses forced starvation policy on Rohingya: UN
Crimes committed by Myanmar especially in wake of Oct. 2016 and Aug. 2017 bear hallmarks of genocide, says UN expert
Myanmar authorities have been using a policy of forced starvation to make life unsustainable for its Rohingya people, a UN rights expert warned on Monday.
"There appears to be a policy of forced starvation in place, designed to make life in northern Rakhine unsustainable for the Rohingya who remain," Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"Before repatriation can be really considered, Myanmar must break the cycle of violence in Rakhine, recognize the Rohingyas’ right to self-identify, restore their citizenship, and uphold their human rights," Lee said.
The villages that were once home to Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh have been bulldozed to the ground, said Lee.
"Just yesterday, new satellite imagery has revealed that military bases are being constructed in these bulldozed areas," he added.
Lee said the crimes committed by Myanmar authorities especially in the wake of October 2016 and Aug. 25, 2017 -- when a military crackdown began -- "bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability".
Lee also warned of new offensives in the states of Kachin and Kayin, east of Rakhine.
"I received information about the military conducting new ground offensives last week using heavy artillery in the Tanai gold and amber mining area of Kachin," Lee said.
"Not only does the Myanmar government have a responsibility to account for the alleged crimes in Rakhine state since October 9, 2016, and August 25, 2017, and the violations that continue today, but the international community must also be vigilant," Lee said.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children, and women have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published last December, the humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised the issue at the UN.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.
The UN also voiced "strong suspicions" that Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya might be the victims of "genocide" and continued “ethnic cleansing."
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.