By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - A UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar said Thursday that the military's use of rape and other forms of sexual violence is so routine it "reflects a widespread culture of tolerance towards humiliation."
The mission said in its 61-page report that Myanmar's military must end the practice, which it said is employed to terrorize ethnic minorities in multiple states.
It found that in Rakhine state, home to the country's Rohingya Muslim minority, the practice of employing sexual violence was so widespread during what the government called "clearance operations" in 2017 that it was a factor in determining Myanmar's intent to commit genocide against the ethnic group.
"The international community must hold the Myanmar military to account for the tremendous pain and suffering it has inflicted on persons of all genders across the country,” the mission's chair, Marzuki Darusman said in a statement.
The report is based on interviews with hundreds of survivors and witnesses of the ongoing operations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.
It determined that the military's use of sexual violence could only be attributed to "part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish a civilian population and force them to flee."
"The Mission concluded on reasonable grounds that the acts constituted crimes against humanity, war crimes, and underlying acts of genocide accompanied by inferences of genocidal intent," the report's authors wrote in a report that used British spelling.
Women and girls were targeted in the majority of assaults cataloged by the report. In addition to being beaten, burned with cigarettes and cut with knives, the report says Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, raped and held women and girls as sexual slaves on military bases.
Men and boys were also raped, sexually tortured and forced to be nude, according to the report.
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).