Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for targeted sanctions and an arms embargo against Myanmar military for persecution of Rohingyas forcing around 4,00,000 ethnic minority people to flee to Bangladesh.
However, unofficial count suggests that the number of Rohingya people fleeing to Bangladesh has crossed 6,00,000.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 4,09,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state of Myanmar following August 25 insurgent attacks on police posts and an army base.
Several thousand minority Rohingya Muslims, including women and children, might have been killed in crackdown by Myanmar military over the last three weeks.
Save the Children citing an IOM report said the number of Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh may reach one million by the end of this year if the trend of Rohingya influx of 10,000 to 20,000 a day continues.
Some 60 percent of the Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar are children, the organisation also said quoting a UNICEF report.
The United Nations has branded the atrocities against Rohingya people ‘nothing less than ethnic cleansing’.
Instead of paying heed to the request of global leaders to stop atrocities, Myanmar authorities have intensified magnitude of persecution of minority Rohingya people.
When Rohingyas were fleeing to Bangladesh, Myanmar military asked them through Public Address (PA) system to expedite their departure and ensure their homes are vacated by last Wednesday.
Even, Myanmar’s globe-trotting army chief General Min Aung Hlaing in a statement called for national unity on Rohingya cleansing.
“They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar. (The) Bengali issue is a national cause and we need to be united in establishing the truth,” he made the statement on his official Facebook page on Saturday.
Against the backdrop, the HRW want the UN Security Council and the countries concerned to impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on the Myanmar military to end ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar military forces have carried out mass killing, arson and looting. They also destroyed hundreds of villages leading to influx of nearly half a million Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, it said.
The HRW said world leaders gathering in New York to attend UN General Assembly should condemn the atrocities against Rohingyas and obstruction of humanitarian aid to those desperately in need.
“The Security Council should urgently place a travel ban and asset freeze on those responsible for grave abuses and impose a comprehensive arms embargo against Burma, including prohibiting military cooperation and financial transactions with key military-owned enterprises,” it added.
The Human Rights Watch has termed persecution of Rohingyas by Myanmar security forces ethnic cleansing.
John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director of HRW, said “Burmese security forces are committing ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and disregarding the condemnation of world leaders.”
It is high time for the UN to impose tougher measures against Myanmar military for perpetrating atrocities in Rakhine state, he added.
The Security Council should also demand that Myanmar allow humanitarian aid agencies to access people in need, permit entry of a UN fact-finding mission mandated to investigate violations in the country, and ensure safe and voluntary return of those displaced, he added.
As a first step, the Security Council should hold an open meeting to discuss about the council’s responses to Rohingya atrocities. The council should invite UN Secretary-General António Guterres to brief on the crisis in western Myanmar’s Rakhine atate, which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has referred to as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Security Council should also discuss measures to try those responsible for serious abuses by the International Criminal Court, the HRW added.
“The concerned governments should not wait for Security Council action to address the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma. They should impose travel bans and asset freezes on security officials implicated in serious abuses; expand existing arms embargoes to include all military sales, assistance, and cooperation; and place a ban on financial transactions with key Burmese military-owned enterprises.”
The US government should place the senior leadership of the Myanmar military, notably commander-in-chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on the US Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, which cuts off access to US financial institutions, restricts travel to the US, and freezes US assets, it said.
The HRW urged the European Union and its member countries to expand or impose similar targeted economic and travel sanctions, and extend the existing EU arms embargo against Myanmar to include all forms of military assistance. Similar measures should be taken by other concerned governments, including Japan, Norway, South Korea, Canada, and Australia, it added.
“Burma’s senior military commanders are more likely to heed the calls of the international community if they are suffering real economic consequences,” Sifton said. “It hits those responsible for ethnic cleansing where it hurts.”
The HRW analysed a series of satellite images recorded between August 25 and September 16 that showed over 220 villages destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine state since the violence started.
Many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have described how Myanmar security forces shot at them and set fire to their houses. On the other hand, the Myanmar government alleged that ARSA fighters and Rohingya villagers are responsible for the arson, but it has failed to prove the claim.
Any ARSA commanders who are credibly implicated in serious abuses should also face sanctions, the HRW said.
International pressure is gradually mounting on Myanmar regime for unbridled persecution of Rohingya ethnic minority. The demand made by the HRW for sanction and trial against the Myanmar authorities has reflected the expectation of many people across the world.