Rohingya Crisis: Terror, Forced Starvation and Monsoon Continue to Threaten Lives

The "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar continues, with campaigns of terror and forced starvation, the United Nations has claimed.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority group that lives in segregated conditions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, mainly in Rakhine state. They are stateless people and are regarded as unwelcome migrants from Muslim-majority Bangladesh. They have become one of the world's most persecuted ethnic minorities.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been displaced since violence erupted in Rakhine last August. Most of the refugees fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

"The ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar continues. I don't think we can draw any other conclusion from what I have seen and heard in Cox's Bazar," U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said, after visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district.

"It appears that widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya persists," he continued.

"The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation that seems to be designed to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and into Bangladesh."

Rohingya refugees
Women are seen on January 17, 2018 in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The United nations said in March 2018 that the "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar continues, with campaigns of terror and forced starvation. Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Myanmar has been accused of committing widespread abuses against its Rohingya Muslim population.

The government has rejected the allegations, but the U.N. has described violence as as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the violence against Rohingya may amount to genocide.

The latest exodus of Rohingya refugees began last August due to the army's "clearance operation" launched after Rohingya insurgents killed at least 11 people in Rakhine.

The military has been accused of committing human rights abuses, including mass rapes and extrajudicial executions, against the Rohingya, whom Burmese authorities regards as stateless citizens.

The army has strongly denied accusations of excessive force against the Rohingya and only admitted to being responsible for a mass grave containing the bodies of "10 Bengali terrorists" discovered in Inn Din village last year.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have warned that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face life-threatening risks due to floods and landslides as the monsoon season is approaching. They have been calling for thousands of refugees to be re-housed.

"The adverse weather conditions, including potential cyclones, could put tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees staying at the highly congested settlements in Cox's Bazar district at serious risk," Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in February.