Myanmar has rejected statements by senior U.N. rights officials that Rohingya are enduring “ongoing genocide” a year after a brutal military campaign drove more than 700,000 members of the Muslim ethnic minority into Bangladesh.
In remarks to reporters before a briefing to the U.N. Security Council that Myanmar had tried to block with the help of China, Marzuki Darusman, chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said thousands of Rohingya are still fleeing to Bangladesh and those that remained suffered severe repression.
"It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment," he told a news conference Wednesday at the United Nations.
"The Myanmar government's hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle," Darusman told reporters.
"Its continued denials, its attempts to shield itself under the cover of national sovereignty, and its dismissal of 444 pages of details about the facts and circumstances of recent human rights violations that point to the most serious crimes under international law" underscores the need for international action, he said.
Myanmar has rejected the U.N. fact-finding report, issued in late August, and other well-documented accounts of the carnage and set up its own commission to look into the crisis, but Darusman said “accountability cannot be expected from the national processes."
Myanmar’s claim that it wants to repatriate Rohingya from Bangladesh are untenable, he said.
"Remaining Rohingya in Rakhine state are at grave risk," Darusman said, and any repatriation under current conditions would be "tantamount to condemning them to life as subhumans and further mass killing."
Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special investigator on human rights in Myanmar, said Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of the country, "is in total denial" about the brutal military campaign of rape, murder and torture of Rohingya.
"Right now, it's like an apartheid situation where Rohingyas still living in Myanmar ... have no freedom of movement," Lee said. "The camps, the shelters, the model villages that are being built, it's more of a cementing of total segregation or separation from the Rakhine ethnic community."
Darusman said the Security Council should refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another international tribunal and take other measures against the country and those responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya.
Myanmar's U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, repeated the same denials Myanmar has offered since the beginning of the crisis.
“This fact‑finding mission’s report is unconstructive and full of prejudice,” he said. “We don’t accept and condemn the calls for referring Myanmar situation to ICC or an independent court.”
Hau Do Suan’s stance was largely echoed by key figures in Myanmar, including by a human rights lawyer.
“It is not good if the U.N. discusses Myanmar according to the fact‑finding mission’s report, because its report is based only on oral testimonies,” said Min Lwin Oo, a lawyer at the Asian Human Rights Commission.
“If the U.N. keeps discussing Myanmar issues according to these two reports, it will be difficult for Myanmar to adhere what the U.N. decides,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
A spokesman for the military-affiliated main opposition party faulted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government — not for the Rohingya crisis, but for listening to international opinions.
“We have suggested and urged the current government repeatedly both inside and outside of parliament not to accept interference from foreign countries,” said Thein Tun Oo, spokesman for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
“We know what could happen if the Myanmar government listens to this international interference and we have warned about it,” he told RFA.
A former student leader from Myanmar’s abortive 1988 democracy movement, however, urged the government to move beyond denial and actively deal with the issue, which he said “makes Myanmar look ugly internationally.”
“We need to create a situation that is proper by working based on real facts and information instead of constant denial,” said Mya Aye, leader of the National Democratic Force, a political party formed by student leaders.
“Myanmar should resolve this issue together with international community to get fair result and justice,” he told RFA.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin and Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Paul Eckert.