According to an John McKissick at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] [official website] on Thursday, members of the Rohingya Muslim community have been subjected [BBC report] to numerous atrocities by troops in Myanmar, including execution, rape, starvation and displacement. McKissick said the widespread violence is part of an ongoing effort by the Burmese government to “ethnically cleanse” the Muslim minority group from the country. Speaking to the BBC [website] from the UNHCR headquarters in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh [Cox’s Bazar News, Bengali], McKissick said the latest increase in violence against the Rohingya is in response to the murder of nine border guards in Myanmar on October 9, which some Burmese politicians have blamed [press conference transcript] on a Rohingya militant group. More than 200,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar in an attempt to escape the violence and alleged genocide. Many of those migrants are currently living in camps near the border, in towns such as Teknaf and Ukhiya. Some have expressed a desire to return to their homes in Myanmar, although Human Rights Watch (HRW) [Website] reports that more than a thousand Rohingya homes have been razed [HRW report] there.
Human rights violations have been on the forefront of Myanmar’s new democratic government since ending a decades-old military rule. In June a UN expert presented [JURIST report] a report on religious, free market, political, and nationalist or cultural fundamentalism, stating that fundamentalist intolerance is growing throughout the globe and is directly contributing to infringements of the rights to association and peaceful assembly. In April, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed [JURIST report] shock at the increasing number of children recruited and killed in armed conflicts in several countries; the government of Myanmar alone released [JURIST report] 46 underage child recruits from the military in March as part of a UN join action plan made in 2012. In May Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] the Myanmar Parliament to reconsider a proposed law that they say has the advocacy organization says has the potential to limit free expression and peaceful assembly. Also in May US Secretary of State John Kerry offered support to Myanmar’s newly democratic government and urged [JURIST report] the country to push more democratic reform and address human rights issues.