YANGON, MYANMAR – Rohingya Muslims remaining in Myanmar still face a “serious risk of genocide,” U.N. investigators said Monday, warning that repatriation of a million already driven from the country by the army remains “impossible.”
The fact-finding mission to Myanmar, set up by the Human Rights Council, last year branded the army operations in 2017 as “genocide” and called for the prosecution of top generals, including army chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled burning villages, bringing accounts of murder, rape and torture over the border to sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh, where survivors of previous waves of persecution already languish.
But in a damning report, the United Nations team said the 600,000 Rohingya still inside Myanmar’s Rakhine state remain in deteriorating and “deplorable” conditions.
“Myanmar continues to harbor genocidal intent and the Rohingya remain under serious risk of genocide,” the investigators said in their final report on Myanmar, due to be presented Tuesday in Geneva.
The country is “denying wrongdoing, destroying evidence, refusing to conduct effective investigations and clearing, razing, confiscating and building on land from which it displaced Rohingya,” it said.
Rohingya were living in “inhumane” conditions, the report continued, adding over 40,000 structures had been destroyed in the crackdown.
The mission reiterated calls for the U.N. Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to set up a tribunal, like for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
It said it had a confidential list of over 100 names, including officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to the six generals named publicly last year.
The report also repeated calls for foreign governments and companies to sever all business ties with the military, calling for a “moratorium” on investment and development assistance in Rakhine state.
The maligned Muslim community has long been subjected to tight movement restrictions, making it difficult or impossible for many to access health care, work and education.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and are accused of being illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
The army justified the crackdown as a means of rooting out Rohingya insurgents.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal two years ago, but virtually no refugees have returned to date.
The investigators described conditions in Myanmar as “unsafe, unsustainable and impossible” for returns to take place.
They also accused the army of fresh abuses against civilians in the north of Rakhine state.
The area has once again become embroiled in conflict as the military wages war on the Arakan Army, rebels fighting for the rights of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
The U.N. probe accused the military of “war crimes,” including forced labor and torture and said the Arakan Army was also guilty of abuses on a smaller scale.
Myanmar military spokesman Zaw Min Tun rejected the team’s findings, calling them “one-sided.”
“Instead of making biased accusations, they should go onto the ground to see the reality,” Zaw Min Tun said.