Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Myanmar denies human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar denies human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims

A Rakhine Buddhist leader facing treason charges linked to deadly riots appeared in a Myanmar court on Wednesday, a case that has aggravated ethnic tensions in a region also roiled by the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

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.

Concluding a four-day visit to refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh this week, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour reported that while most Rohingya have fled towns near the Bangladesh border, many continue to arrive from farther-flung parts of the Rakhine.

Refugees living in camps in southeastern Bangladesh have also resisted the idea, fearing they will not be safe if they return to Rakhine.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have announced provisional plans for the Rohingya - a mostly Muslim ethnic group - to return home to Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.

The Bangladesh government's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) has stated that almost 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh from August 25, 2017 until March 6, 2018.

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Gilmour said the rate of killings and sexual violence in Rakhine has subsided since August and September past year, but "It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists".

Bangladesh and Burma made an agreement last November to repatriate the refugees, a process supposed to be completed within two years which was recently postponed. But Gilmour said the authorities should first stop the ongoing violence.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as its citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the Rohingya community as well as restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The area now occupied by the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar has always been an important habitat for East Asian Elephants, the agency said.

"UNHCR is urging the authorities to ensure the safety of the group now in no man's land", UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said Tuesday. "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".

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, deputy army chief Soe Win reiterated the military's stance that the "Rohingya" are not a genuine ethnic group in Myanmar - a view shared by many in the Buddhist majority, where there is broad support for the army campaign. Reuters uncovered the massacre and has pieced together how it unfolded.

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