UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Myanmar authorities to ensure unfettered humanitarian access in Rakhine state, where violence against Rohingya Muslims had forced hundreds of thousands of them to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the plea during a speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
The Rohingya community desperately needs immediate, life-saving assistance, long-term solutions and justice, he told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
“They (Rohingyas) are under siege as a group “ simply for who they are,” he said.
“I have travelled several times to Northern Rakhine,” Guterres said, adding, “In my experience, the Rohingya are one of the most discriminated against populations in the world “ and that was even before the crisis of the past year.
“Deprived of nationality, they have been subjected to extreme brutality by military forces and others, and cast out of their homes and country in a clear example of ethnic cleansing.”
The UN chief noted that he had written an official letter to the Security Council about the plight of the persecuted Muslim minority group and the â€œethnic cleansing taking place in Rakhine.
Human Rights Watch said last week that it had analyzed satellite imagery showing Myanmar had razed to the ground at least 55 Rohingya villages in Rakhine over the past months.
The New York-based rights group said the demolitions could have erased evidence of atrocities perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces against the persecuted minority.
Myanmar’s military forces stand accused not just of torching and destroying Muslim villages, but of carrying out massacres, rapes and widespread looting.
Backed by the government, Myanmar’s military and Buddhist extremists launched a heavy-handed crackdown against the Muslim minority in Rakhine in late 2016. That campaign intensified in August 2017.
The crackdown has forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, where they face repatriation.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement in November last year to repatriate all Rohingya Muslims who have crossed the border to escape the brutal military crackdown.
The repatriation was set to start last month but was delayed by a lack of preparation, as well as protests staged by Rohingya refugees against the plan to send them back to Myanmar while conditions were not safe for their return.
The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations but are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.
The UN has described the 1.1-million-strong Muslim community as the most persecuted minority in the world.