Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are reported to be fleeing towards Bangladesh, say UN human rights officials
UN human rights officials have warned of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, as tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing towards Bangladesh.
"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly and I am concerned that many thousands of people are increasingly at risk of grave violations of their human rights,” Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said in a statement late Thursday endorsed by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, and the special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes.
"Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are now reported to be fleeing towards Bangladesh," they said.
There were multiple credible reports that soldiers in Myanmar used rocket-propelled grenades against civilians moving towards Bangladesh, Lee said.
"The worsening cycle of violence is of grave concern and must be broken urgently," said Lee.
Lee decried the failure of authorities in Myanmar to help Rohingya Muslims evacuate to safer locations.
"More than 27,000 people have crossed into Bangladesh in the area around Cox’s Bazar, while 20,000 more remain stranded between the two countries. The number continues to grow," Lee said.
"I call on the Government to ensure the immediate provision of assistance to all affected communities in Rakhine State, and grant unfettered access to the United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance," Lee said.
Crackdown triggers exodus
Violence erupted in Rakhine, Myanmar on Aug. 25 when the southeast Asian country’s security forces launched an operation against the Rohingya Muslim community. It triggered a fresh influx of refugees towards neighboring Bangladesh, though the country sealed off its border to refugees.
Media reports said Myanmar security forces used disproportionate force, displacing thousands of Rohingya villagers and destroying their homes with mortars and machine guns.
The region has seen simmering tension between its Buddhist and Muslim populations since communal violence broke out in 2012.
A security crackdown launched last October in Maungdaw, where Rohingya make up the majority, led to a UN report on human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity.
The UN documented mass gang-rape, killings -- including infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances. Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people have been slain during the crackdown.