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Ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas continues in Myanmar, says top United Nations official

09 March 2018
Ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas continues in Myanmar, says top United Nations official

A top United Nations official believes that conditions are not ripe for Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh to return to their homes in Myanmar, said the chief United Nations spokesman on Tuesday. "I don't think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox's Bazar", he added, referring to a district in southern Bangladesh which is home to most of the refugees.

"Myanmar army investigations found security personnel did not commit extrajudicial killings or sexually abuse and rape women and there was no unlawful detention of people, beating, killing and arson as well, " it said.

A Rakhine leader facing treason charges linked to deadly riots appeared in a Myanmar court on Wednesday, a case that has aggravated ethnic tensions in Rakhine State.

Abductions of Rohingya girls and women by Burmese security forces was a "recurring theme" said the OHCHR, corroborating accounts of sexual violence and killings provided to other United Nations agencies and non-profit organisations including Human Rights Watch.

"The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of a year ago to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be created to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh", Gilmour said.

UNHCR also reiterates that conditions are not yet conducive to the return of Rohingya refugees.

In Bangladesh meanwhile, a cabinet accused Myanmar of obstructing efforts to repatriate the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees there. "We don't drive out the refugees", he said.

Gilmour added that new arrivals to refugee camps are travelling from interior Rakhine towns further from the border. UNHCR is closely following the developments after they were reportedly ordered to vacate the area by the Myanmar authorities. Residents of what is called "no-man's land", as it sits outside Myanmar's border fence but on its side of a creek that separates the two countries, say Myanmar officials have warned them on loudspeakers that their presence on the border line is illegal. "In the same way, those who wish to return to Myanmar have the right to do so when they feel the time and circumstances are right".

"These people have fled violence at home and must be able to seek asylum in Bangladesh if they feel unsafe where they are", she said.

Gabrielle Aron, an independent analyst in Myanmar, said a guilty verdict would be widely interpreted as a move to "politically oppress the Rakhine people". Bangladesh last week protested to Myanmar's ambassador in Dhaka after Myanmar security personnel, estimated to number more than 200, gathered near the border. "They are now even more reluctant to go back to their homeland".