Jakarta. The United Nations human rights chief on Monday (05/02) criticized the Myanmar government's approach to addressing the unrest in Rakhine State, and warned that the Rohingya crisis might spark a broader conflict in the region.
Speaking at the Jakarta International Conversation on Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein singled out the refugee crisis in Myanmar as an area "where rights have gone wrong," and said that what had occurred in northern Rakhine could be acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
More than 650,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since August, after attacks by insurgents on the military led to a bloody crackdown.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship and are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many of them came to Myanmar in the 19th century, when it was under British rule. They have been persecuted for decades.
Despite the "biting injustice," Zeid noted that the Myanmar economy has been growing in recent years, adding that its government's response to the Rohingya crisis has been focused on plans for socio-economic development of Rakhine.
Though the military has been accused of committing atrocities against the Rohingya, the government has maintained its narrative that the conflict in Rakhine State, the country's poorest region, is rooted in underdevelopment and driven by resource competition.
"Myanmar faces a very serious crisis, with a potentially severe impact on the security of the region," Zeid said, adding that if it leads to a broader conflict based on religious identities, ensuing disputes could be a cause for great alarm.
Myanmar is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).