8 April 2014
Burma Times: A top United Nations official says that persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar could amount to crimes against humanity.
On Monday, the United Nations’ human rights envoy to the country, Tomas Ojea Quintana, also urged authorities in Myanmar to allow the return of aid groups which were forced to flee due to attacks against them in the western state of Rakhine, AFP reported.
“Recent developments in Rakhine State are the latest in a long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community which could amount to crimes against humanity,” he said in a statement.
More than 170 aid workers were pulled out of the state as a result of the violence and there are fears that the entire relief infrastructure has been severely damaged.
The UN expert said that the aid groups’ departure could have severe consequences for displaced Muslims who are reliant on international medical relief. He added that water shortages could reach critical levels within a week in some refugee camps.
The Muslims have been sheltering in camps to avoid deadly attacks by extremist Buddhists. Some 140,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in camps as a result of the sectarian conflict since 2012. Another 700,000 Rohingya Muslims are in dire conditions in isolated villages.
More than 800,000 Rohingyas in Rakhine are deprived of citizenship rights due to the policy of discrimination that has denied them the right of citizenship and made them vulnerable to acts of violence and persecution, expulsion, and displacement.
The Myanmar government has so far refused to extricate the stateless Rohingyas from their citizenship limbo, despite international pressure to give them a legal status.
Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar for many years.
Hundreds of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in attacks by Buddhist extremists.
The extremists frequently attack Rohingyas and have set fire to their homes in several villages in Rakhine. Myanmar army forces allegedly provide the fanatics containers of petrol for torching the houses of Muslim villagers, who are then forced to flee.
Myanmar’s government has been accused of failing to protect Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has also come under fire for her stance on the violence. The Nobel Peace laureate has refused to censure the Myanmar military for its persecution of the Rohingyas.
Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued separate statements, calling on Myanmar to take action to protect the Rohingya Muslim population against extremists.