GENEVA — Myanmar may be seeking to “expel” all ethnic Rohingya from its territory, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said Monday, pushing for a high-level inquiry into abuses against the stateless Muslim minority community.
Yanghee Lee said a full purge could be the ultimate goal of the institutional persecution and horrific violence being perpetrated against the Rohingya.
The evidence “indicates the government may be trying to expel the Rohingya population from the country altogether,” Lee told the UN Human Rights Council.
The army launched a bloody crackdown against the Rohingya in October in northern Rakhine State, following attacks by militants on several border posts.
UN investigators say that during the military operation women were gang-raped by soldiers and Rohingya babies were slaughtered.
Lee wants the council to establish the UN’s highest-level probe, a Commission of Inquiry, to investigate that crackdown as well as violent episodes in 2012 and 2014.
The council could set up the commission before its session ends later this month, but key players including the European Union have not yet backed Lee’s call because of concern that a damning UN investigation might threaten the country’s fragile democracy drive.
Representatives from the EU, the Netherlands and Britain all avoided the question of a Commission of Inquiry during Monday’s discussion.
Britain’s envoy to the council, Julian Braithwaite, said the international community needed to “engage (Myanmar) without damaging the delicate civilian/military balance”.
UN reports have blamed the security services for the atrocities, but they have also implicated the civilian government led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which took over last year after decades of oppressive military rule.
Myanmar has pushed back against Lee’s call for a Commission of Inquiry, insisting that its own investigation into the Rakhine crisis would uncover the facts.
But Lee told the council that the government’s probe had already been proved inadequate.