Rohingya continue to flee violence, persecution in Myanmar: UN rights boss

Reuters , Wednesday 4 Jul 2018

Muslim Rohingya continue to flee Myanmar's Rakhine state, many testifying about violence, persecution, killings and burning of their homes, the United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday.

So far this year, 11,432 have arrived in Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 have fled since an August 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said.

"No amount of rhetoric can whitewash these facts. People are still fleeing persecution in Rakhine -- and are even willing to risk dying at sea to escape," Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Many Rohingya refugees also report being pressured by Myanmar authorities to accept a national verification card that says they need to apply for citizenship, he said.

The citizenship issue is at the core of discussions on their status, Zeid said, adding that the cards "mark the Rohingya as non-citizens, in keeping with the government’s characterisation of them as foreigners in their own homeland".

Authorities in mainly Buddhust Myanmar deny carrying out large scale human rights abuses. Authorities say a crackdown in Rakhine is a necessary response to violence by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, which attacked Myanmar security posts.

Kyaw Moe Tun, director-general of Myanmar's foreign ministry, said a top priority for his government was to find a "sustainable solution" in Rakhine. It had agreed with Bangladesh in January 2018 that repatriation of refugees would be completed within two years, he said, without using the word Rohingya.

He said that Zeid's report contained information that was "distorted or exaggerated".

"The root cause of the tragedy was terrorism and terrorism cannot be condoned under any circumstance," Kyaw said

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