Rohingya tell UN they were told: 'If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you'

Attacks against Rohingya Muslims in Burma point to a strategy to cause "widespread fear and trauma" and prevent them from ever returning to their homes, a report by the UN human rights office has said.

The report released on Wednesday is based on 65 interviews conducted in mid-September with Rohingya, individually and in groups, as more the half a million people from the ethnic group fled into Bangladesh during a violent crackdown in Burma.

The attacks against Rohingya in Burma's northern Rakhine state by security forces and Buddhist mobs were "coordinated and systematic", with the intent of not only driving the population out of Burma but preventing them from returning, the report said.

Some of those interviewed said, before and during attacks, megaphones were used to announce: "You do not belong here, go to Bangladesh.

"If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you."

According to the UN researchers, measures against the minority group began almost a month before the August 25 attacks on police posts by Muslim militants that served as a pretext for what Burma's military called "clearance operations" in Rakhine.

"Information we have received indicates that days and up to a month before the 25th of August, that the Burma security forces imposed further restrictions on access to markets, medical clinics, schools and religious sites," Karin Friedrich, who was part of the UN mission to Bangladesh, said at a news conference.

"Rohingya men aged 15 to 40 were reportedly arrested by the Burma police" and detained without any charges, she said.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said Burma's government's denial of rights, including citizenship, to the Rohingya appeared to be part of "a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return".

He has also described the systematic attacks and widespread burning of villages as "textbook ethnic cleansing".

The report said efforts were made to "effectively erase signs of memorable landmarks" in Rohingya areas to make the landscape unrecognisable.

Burma's Buddhist majority denies that Rohingya are a separate ethnic group and regards them as illegal immigrants.

AP


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