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600,000 Rohingya at risk of ‘genocide’ in Burma (UN)

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) —  A UN fact-finding mission warned Monday that some 600,000 Rohingya still in Burma are at risk of “genocide”, noting that the return of hundreds of thousands of people previously expelled by the army remains a matter of concern.

The Human Rights Council mission considered the Burmese army’s operations in 2017 a “genocide” and demanded the prosecution of top generals, including its leader Min Aung Hlaing.

740,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine State (West Burma) in August 2017 after a military crackdown in Burma, where the majority of the population is Buddhist.

The mission confirmed that the 600,000 Rohingya, who remain in Rakhine state, were in “deteriorating and unfortunate” conditions.

In its final report due to be presented Tuesday in Geneva, the mission said it had “compelling reasons to conclude that the evidence to convince the state of intentions to commit genocide has been strengthened” since last year and that “there is a serious threat of a new genocide.”

She stressed that “the impossibility of the return of Rohingya refugees.”

Burma “denies any wrongdoing, destroys evidence, rejects actual investigations, removes, burns, confiscates and builds on land from which the Rohingya have been abandoned,” the report said.

He said the Rohingya were living in “inhumane” conditions, citing the destruction of more than 40,000 buildings during the crackdown.

– “war crimes” –

The mission reiterated its call for the UN Security Council to refer the case of Burma to the International Criminal Court or to establish its own tribunal like the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda.

It revealed that it had a secret list of more than 100 people, including officials suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as six generals named last year.

The report renewed its call on foreign governments and companies to stop all trade links with the military, calling for “freezing” investment and development assistance in Rakhine State.

The Muslim minority has been severely restricted, making it difficult or even impossible for many to access health, education or work.

Burma, a predominantly Buddhist country, refuses to grant Rohingya Muslims citizenship or basic rights, referring to them as “Bengal” in a sign they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The Burmese military justified the crackdown as a way to eliminate the Rohingya rebels.

Bangladesh and Burma signed an agreement to repatriate thousands of refugees two years ago, but to date no refugees have returned.

“This country continues to commit crimes against humanity in inhumane acts causing great suffering and persecution in the context of a generalized and systematic attack against the Rohingya population,” said UNAMSIL personnel who were not allowed to travel to Burma.

They described conditions in Burma as “unsafe and impossible” to return the Rohingya refugees to their homes.

They also accused the military of committing new abuses against civilians in northern Rakhine State.

The region has once again been at loggerheads with the Burmese army launching a campaign targeting the Arakan Army, which is fighting for ethnic Buddhist rights in Rakhine State.

The mission accused the military in Burma of enforcing forced labor and torture and noted that Arakan’s army was also accused of abuses, but on a smaller scale.

But Burma’s military spokesman dismissed the mission’s findings as “biased.”

“Instead of making accusations dominated by bias, they should go to the ground to see reality,” he told AFP.

The Panel submitted its report to a commission of inquiry aimed at developing evidence to support any future trial.

“The international inaction scandal must end. Unless the United Nations and the international community take effective action this time, this sad history could be repeated,” said Christopher Sedotti, a member of the mission.

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