Ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas continues in Myanmar, says top United Nations official

Rohingya skeptical of repatriation to Myanmar

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Bangladesh insists the repatriation process will go ahead, last month submitting to Myanmar the names of 8,000 refugees expected to return to Rakhine, where the Muslim minority has been persecuted for generations.

Myanmar's government denies such abuses and announced in January it was ready to accept the return of refugees.

The United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday he strongly suspected that "acts of genocide" may have taken place against Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state since August.

"These people have fled violence at home and must be able to seek asylum in Bangladesh if they feel unsafe where they are", she said.

Finance Minister A.M.A Muhith says that there is little chance of the displaced Rohingya returning to Myanmar due to their fear of persecution.

While the majority of those refugees fled Myanmar previous year, Rohingya are still streaming across the border by the hundreds every week.

A man walks between a rice field and the shacks of Rohingya refugees living on the land of Bangladeshi farmer Jorina Katun near the Kutapalong refugee camp in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh February 9, 2018. "The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues", said the UN's assistant secretary-general for human rights, Andrew Gilmour.

"Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are of course impossible under current conditions", Gilmour added.

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Myanmar's military has largely closed off the north of Rakhine state to journalists, diplomats and most aid organisations apart from brief chaperoned trips.

The Tatmadaw army of Burma stands accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages as part of "clearing operations" in response to an attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on military and police outposts on Aug 25 a year ago.

Rights groups and the United Nations have warned that conditions for their return are not close to being in place.

James Gomez, Amnesty International's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said the UN's new findings "sadly echo our own".

Living conditions for refugees remain extremely hard despite a growing global response, but the United Nations refugee agency said the threat from elephants had emerged as a new concern.

A recent report in The Irrawaddy claimed that at least 90 percent of the state's Rohingya population have fled.

They recounted incidents where family members were taken away by Myanmar's security forces and later found dead. Myanmar's Buddhist majority is often accused of subjecting them to discrimination and violence.

Myanmar's civilian government, led by former democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, lacks control over the military but has been castigated by rights groups for failing to speak out in defence of the Rohingya.

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