By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Experts warn that persecution and discrimination still prevailing in Myanmar’s Rakhine state make the prospects for a peaceful and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya Muslims impossible.
"Remaining Rohingya in Myanmar continue to be denied their rights and persecuted by authorities, making returns from Bangladesh impossible," said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in a keynote speech at an international conference on Friday in Seoul.
The conference entitled "Protection of Rohingya Survivors and Accountability for Genocide" was held in remembrance of the second anniversary of the Myanmar military's brutal crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine State.
Lee said that 128,000 Muslims, including Rohingya and Kaman -- 53% being children -- still live in encampments in central Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, with no freedom of movement.
Even those who participated in the 2014 pilot verification process in the Rakhine state still do not have freedom of movement, Lee added.
On whether the Myanmar army, Tatmadaw, committed genocide, Lee mentioned five acts of genocide including killing as per the 1951 Genocide Convention. "There is ample support of identifying the current situation in Myanmar as genocide – an ongoing genocide," she said.
On how to move forward amid the prevailing situation, Lee said that first, Myanmar must be "referred to the International Criminal Court without delay."
She urged the immediate mending of the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law that "literally made the majority of the Rohingya as stateless."
The Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement issued on Aug. 20, 2019, estimated a total of 125,000 Rohingya confined to open-air camps in central Rakhine since 2012.
The HRW in its latest statement issued on Friday, added that there were an estimated 500,000 Rohingya living in appalling conditions in Rakhine. "Security forces have confined them to camps and villages and severely restricted their freedom of movement," the statement said.
"Two years since the Myanmar military carried out ethnic cleansing on Rohingya, the government still denies its troops committed any atrocities," said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.
Quoting a Thursday report released by the UN Fact-Finding Mission documenting and analyzing sexual and gender-based violence committed by Myanmar’s military, international humanitarian law organization Global Justice Center (GJC) President Akila Radhakrishnan said in a statement: "To date, no military perpetrator of sexual violence has been held accountable in Burma [Myanmar] for their crimes."
“Sexual and gender-based violence is, at its core, an expression of discrimination, patriarchy, and inequality,” said Radhakrishnan. “As a result, accountability for these crimes must be holistic and seek to address and transform the root causes of violence.”
Pointing to continued impunity for the Myanmar army, the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) in its June 2019 report said that seven Myanmar soldiers who were jailed for the killing of 10 Rohingya at Inn Din village, were released under the decision of Myanmar Commander in Chief, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.
- Persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.