Myanmar’s military forces have been waging a brutal crackdown against a particular Muslim group in the country’s Rakhine State, a new U.N. report revealed on Friday.
Burmese army and Border Guard Police were reportedly involved in extrajudicial killings, widespread rapes, tortures and other brutalities perpetrated on the Rohingya Muslims, a group dubbed as “the most persecuted minority in the world.”
The stateless minority, with a population of 1.1 million people living in Rakhine State, is not recognized by Myanmar or neighboring Bangladesh.
Authorities have imposed harsh restrictions on their movement and access to social services such as health care. And while many have lived in Myanmar for generations, the previous administration considered them illegal immigrants.
According to witnesses, children and infants as young as eight months were among the victims of the violent campaign between October 9 and mid-December.
The chilling report noted:
“Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man ‘took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.’ In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.”
The campaign reportedly sought the clearing of the ethnic group from the country’s borders. It was reportedly ignited by attacks on border police camps by unidentified insurgents.
“The ‘area clearance operations’ have likely resulted in hundreds of deaths and have led to an estimated 66,000 people fleeing into Bangladesh and 22,000 being internally displaced,” the new U.N. report stated.
Hundreds of Rohingya driven to neighboring Bangladesh were interviewed for the report which U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, considers a “very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”
The violent crackdown on the Rohingya has previously earned criticism from human rights group Amnesty International, the U.S. Department of State, and the Malaysian government.
Myanmar’s de facto leader and State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been widely criticized for her inaction over the issue and being silent about the alleged military abuses.
The military claims that it is fighting a Rohingya rebel insurgency, an excuse widely accepted among the Myanmar populace.
The Myanmar government has released a statement saying that it has seen the report and is “very concerned about the allegations.”
“The Investigation Commission headed by the Vice President will look into it. If evidences of the violations are found we will definitely take action on them,” Myanmar government spokesperson Aye Aye Soe told CNN.