By Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Chandni Vasandani
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) - The UN human rights chief on Monday warned that Myanmar's persecution of the Rohingya Muslims has the potential to cause regional conflict.
On a visit to Indonesia, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing may have occurred during Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya minority.
“Myanmar faces a very serious crisis – with a potentially severe impact on the security of the region,” Zeid said in a speech in Jakarta. “If the Rohingya crisis were to spark a broader conflict based on religious identities, the ensuing disputes could be a cause for great alarm.”
He acknowledged the ongoing discrimination and violence against the Rohingya, who face hurdles on such matters as citizenship, legal status and birth certificates, education, and employment.
Zeid criticized the lack of concern regarding the violations of human rights in Myanmar’s Rakhine state from regional and international policy-makers.
He urged Myanmar’s government to acknowledge the official and institutionalized discrimination against an ethnic minority, instead of “maintaining its narrative that the core issues have been under development and competition for resources.”
More than 650,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017 when Myanmar forces launched a bloody crackdown.
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.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a December report, the humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.