Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslim insurgents in Rakhine, Human Rights Watch said yesterday, calling for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo.
The UN refugee agency called for a redoubling of international aid for the 4,80,000 refugees -- 60 percent of them children -- who have fled to Bangladesh since August 25 to escape the violence.
A Myanmar government spokesman rejected the accusation of crimes against humanity, saying there was no evidence.
Myanmar has also rejected UN accusations that its forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing against Rohingyas in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on the security forces on August 25.
Refugees arriving in Bangladesh have accused the army and Buddhist vigilantes of trying to drive Rohingya out of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
“The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine state,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity.”
Myanmar, also known as Burma, says its forces are fighting terrorists responsible for attacking the police and the army, killing civilians and torching villages.
The International Criminal Court defines crimes against humanity as acts including murder, torture, rape and deportation “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.
Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation, forced population transfers, murder and rape.
The UN Security Council and concerned countries should impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, it said.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said no Myanmar government had ever been as committed to the promotion of rights as the current one.
“Accusations without any strong evidence are dangerous,” he told Reuters. “It makes it difficult for the government to handle things.”
A coordinating group of aid organisations said the total number of refugees who have fled to Bangladesh since August 25 had been revised up to 4,80,000 after 35,000 people in two camps were found to have been missed out of the previous tally.
“The massive influx of people seeking safety has been outpacing capacities to respond, and the situation for these refugees has still not stabilized,” Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva.
“UNHCR is calling for a redoubling of the international humanitarian response in Bangladesh.”