United Nations human rights official Andrew Gilmour said on March 7 that it was impossible to safely send Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh back to their homes in Myanmar, Morning Star Online said that day. Gilmour cited ongoing widespread and systematic violence against them, amounting to “ethnic cleansing”.
The UN assistant secretary-general said that during a four-day visit to Bangladesh, refugees told him “credible accounts of continued killings, rape, torture and abductions as well as forced starvation” in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine.
Morning Star Online said: “About 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August, when Myanmar security forces began sweeps through Rakhine after attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group.
“There are credible accounts of widespread rights abuses, including rape, the torching of homes and killings, carried out against the Rohingya, leading to accusations that Myanmar is guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing’ or even genocide.”
Gilmour said: “The nature of the violence has changed from the frenzied bloodletting 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.”
Ahead of Gilmour’s trip, Myanmar’s army deployed additional troops to the border with Bangladesh with the apparent aim of driving about 6000 Rohingya refugees staying in no-man’s land into Bangladeshi territory.
Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship and falsely claims that they are all immigrants from Bangladesh.
Despite these credible accounts of human rights abuses, documents released under freedom of information laws show that the Australian defence department plans to spend almost $400,000 on training members of the Myanma military in 2017-18.
The Guardian said on March 6: “Australia has so far diverged from its allies and resisted calls from groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to suspend military cooperation with Myanmar...
“Diana Sayed, Amnesty International’s crisis campaigns coordinator, said the Australian government’s strategy of continued engagement and careful diplomacy cannot be justified given the extent and extremity of the crisis.”