The United Nations says the Myanmar government should immediately end the deep discrimination practiced against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Rakhine state, days after it warned that widespread and ongoing human rights violations against the country’s Muslims could amount to crimes against humanity.
“My visit to Rakhine state unfortunately confirmed that the situation on the ground has yet to significantly change,” said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, during a Friday press conference in the country’s southern city of Yangon after a 12-day visit to the Buddhist-majority nation.
She also called for the improvement of living conditions in the cramped and decrepit camps for Rohingya and other Muslims in the western state, stressing that putting an end to “institutionalized discrimination against Muslim communities in the state” must be “an urgent priority.”
“The continuing restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Rohingya and Kaman communities cannot be justified on any grounds of security or maintaining stability,” Lee further said.
Some 140,000 people, mainly Rohingyas, have been trapped in grim displacement camps since they were driven from their homes by waves of Buddhist violence in 2012.
On June 20, the UN human rights office said Rohingyas in the Southeast Asian country were subject to multiple and aggravated forms of human rights violations, including citizenship denial, forced labor and sexual violence.
The world body said it had found “a pattern of gross human rights violations against the Rohingya… (which) suggest a widespread or systematic attack… in turn giving rise to the possible commission of crimes against humanity if established in a court of law.”
The UN also called on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to launch an independent and comprehensive investigation into all rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims.
Rakhine state is home to the Rohingya Muslim minority, who are labeled “Bengali” by hardline Buddhists. Many government officials brand the Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though many can trace their ancestry back generations in Myanmar.
Rohingya and other Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar for many years. A large number of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in attacks by extremists who call themselves Buddhists. The violence against Muslims struck central Myanmar and Rakhine when the army began loosening its stranglehold on the country in 2011.
The violence against Muslims triggered an influx of refugees into neighboring countries, namely Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.