Speed Reads

crisis in Myanmar

Crisis in Myanmar deemed 'a textbook example of ethnic cleansing' as 313,000 flee across border

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights described the crisis unfolding in Myanmar as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" as an estimated 313,000 refugees have fled over the border into neighboring Bangladesh, NPR reports.

The refugees are mostly members of the Rohingya Muslim community, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Violence broke out after Rohingya militants clashed with Myanmar security forces last month, and the civilians who fled report being attacked by militants, government troops, and Buddhist mobs alike. "When the military started shooting in our village, we quickly took my children into the jungle and hid them; they were scared from the dangers in the wild," one refugee wrote in Al Jazeera. "But when I went back to check on the house, I saw right in front of my eyes that many people had been killed."

While the refugee camps along the border are overcrowded and reports of abuse at the hands of NGO workers run rampant, "the Rohingya say what they left behind was worse," NPR writes. "Reports of unbridled murder and arson, rape and persecution have followed them out of Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, sketching a stark portrait of government violence. In an area largely barred from international observation, aid groups have been left to assemble a patchwork understanding of what's unfolding — but by nearly all indications, it's exceedingly grim."

The U.N. human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, added that there are reports of Myanmar authorities insisting on "proof of nationality" from any refugees that attempt to return home. There have also been reports of Myanmar authorities planting landmines along the Bangladeshi border in case any Rohingya try to return.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader, has so far failed to condemn the country's treatment of Rohingya. Leaders of Muslim-majority nations including Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have put pressure on Myanmar's government to stop what appears to be an unfolding genocide.