Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned down villages since October in a campaign that likely amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing, according to the UN.
“The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in hundreds of deaths,” a report from the United Nations human rights office said, referring to a military crackdown launched in the wake of an attack on a military post.
Witnesses testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food.”
The report, which was based on interviews with 204 Rohingya refugees who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, recounted gruesome violations allegedly carried out by members of Myanmar’s security services or civilian fighters working alongside the army and the police.
Tun Khin, a Rohingya activist, told Al Jazeera that the international community now needed to change what he called a “soft approach” towards Myanmar’s government.
“Every day Rohingya are facing abuses and extra-judicial killings are going on,” Khin, who heads the UK-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation, said.
“The [UN Security Council] has to come up with a strong binding resolution to take action against the Myanmar government,” he said, adding that he was pushing hard for the issue to be tabled there.
The UN said it had reports of three children aged six or younger being “slaughtered with knives”.
“An eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers,” the rights office also said, citing witness accounts.
“What kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk,” UN rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein said in the statement. “What kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?”