Myanmar must grant citizenship to stateless Rohingya with roots in the country, a senior UN investigator said on Wednesday, as she urged the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to “be the democrat she once told us she was”.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognise the Muslim Rohingya as citizens despite a long history in the country.
Hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a 2017 crackdown by the military, which UN investigators say was executed with “genocidal intent”.
“I have seen much brutality in the different parts of my career but the rape and forced eviction of the Rohingya shook me to my core,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the UN fact-finding mission that gathered evidence on the violence.
Coomaraswamy said statelessness was at the root of the “horrific” Rohingya crisis, which was among the worst she had seen, second only to the Rwandan genocide.
She told how soldiers shot at fleeing villagers, gang raped women and burned down houses with children inside.
Myanmar has rejected a report by the United Nations investigators calling for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide, saying the international community is making “false allegations”.
Coomaraswamy was speaking after addressing a global conference on statelessness in The Hague where the plight of the Rohingya is in the spotlight.
The Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless population. Myanmar has said it will take back some Rohingya who can show they have a long history in the country. But many fled to Bangladesh with nothing, and many do not want to return without full citizenship.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military yesterday rejected an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s call for a full investigation into alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims.
Fatou Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in September into the 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military that forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh with accounts of rape, mass killings and razing of villages.
On Wednesday she said she would take the issue to the next stage by submitting a request to ICC judges to open a full investigation.
It is not clear when that decision would be made.